Peruvian officials collected 16 oil-covered dead seabirds on Wednesday and rescued three that were barely alive on Isla Pescadores, an island around 7 km (4.35 miles) off the coast of Lima province.
Almost a month after more than 6,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean, seabirds are still dying from oil floating in the water.
Isla Pescadores is part of a protected nature reserve and home to Guanay cormorants, Peruvian boobies and Humboldt penguins. These birds are now under threat from the oil, which is most visible on their chests and beaks.
One of the rescued birds, a black-and-white Guanay cormorant, looked all black with his white chest and belly covered in oil. “The problem is when they clean their feathers, they end up swallowing the oil,” Carlos Saldana from the National Agency for the Protection and Conservation of Antiral Areas (SERNANP) told news agency Reuters.
Fisherman Miguel Ramirez works for SERNANP and makes daily trips to Isla Pescadores and finds dead birds every day.”What happens is that they get sick. It takes some time before the illness gets serious, and then they die,” Ramirez said.
A month ago, a ship leaving the La Pampilla refinery, managed by Spanish oil company Repsol, spilled crude oil off the coast of the Callao region near Lima. Repsol acknowledged many marine animals are still covered in oil following the disaster and added that they’d hired companies and fishermen to help clean it up.
The Spanish oil company will finish cleaning the ocean later this month and complete the entire cleanup by the end of March. The government has banned fishing near the spill, which President Pedro Castillo called Peru’s worst environmental disaster in recent history.