The Galápagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species in the world

By Joelle Goldstein
December 23, 2019 03:39 PM
Galapagos Island oil spill
Credit: Galapagos Conservancy/Twitter

Officials in Ecuador are working to contain the environmental impact of an oil spill that recently occurred off the coast of the Galápagos Islands.

On Sunday morning, 600 gallons of oil spilled into Ecuador’s blue waters after a cargo ship overturned in San Cristóbal Island as it was being loaded with containers, officials confirmed on Twitter.

The Galápagos, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site and located hundreds of miles off Ecuador’s coast, are currently home to some of the most exotic wildlife and ecosystems — many of which cannot exist at any other location in the world.

Video footage obtained by BBC News shows the moment when the crane slowly tipped over into the water as the operator was loading a container onto the Orca barge. The weight of the crane then flipped the cargo vessel over, sending the ship — and the 600 gallons of diesel fuel — into the water.

Workers who were on the cargo ship can be seen frantically jumping off and swimming to shore, while other employees on land came running towards the shoreline to help with the aftermath of the disaster.

No one was hurt in the accident, according to CNN.

Shortly after the spill, Ecuador’s Environmental Minister Raul Ledesma Huerta confirmed in a tweet that “immediate actions to reduce environmental risk” were being taken.

The Galápagos Park said some of those actions included placing containment barriers and absorbent cloths into the water to restrict the diesel fuel from spreading.

That same day, authorities declared an emergency and said they had ordered an investigation into what caused the crane to lose control and flip the vessel, The New York Times reports. By Monday, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno confirmed that the spill was under control.

Galapagos Island oil spill
Galápagos Islands oil spill
| Credit: Galapagos Conservancy/Twitter

Despite that, environmental advocacy group SOS Galápagos claimed in a tweet that the boat operations were “illegal and dangerous” and said the spill had the potential to reach a nearby beach.

“The illegal and dangerous logistics operation carried out in the property must be moved to another site,” they tweeted. “The fuels and oils spilled in this accident will reach Mann Beach, the only beach within the urban area of ​​Pto.Baquerizo.”

Blue footed boobies
Blue-footed boobies
| Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty

The Galápagos Islands are known for their exotic ecosystems and wildlife, including their birds, reptiles, marine wildlife, and mammals — many of which have lived undisrupted for years and have never developed a fear of humans.

In 1835, Charles Darwin visited the volcanic Pacific Ocean archipelago to do research, which eventually led him to come up with the theory of evolution.

Today, the island’s fragile ecosystem is continuously at risk due to the increase in tourism and climate change. The Galápagos Islands attract more than 220,000 visitors each year, according to CBS News.