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2001: Oil tanker endangers eco-paradise

A fuel supply tanker to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific has run aground off the island of San Cristobal.

Marine experts are warning of an ecological disaster to the Archipelago, which is home to thousands of unique animal and plant species.

The ship 'Jessica' ran aground close to the main seaport carrying a cargo of thousands of gallons of diesel and heavy oil.

The tanker is beached in shallow water and there are fears it could leak its toxic load into the marine environment.

Scientists from South Africa and the USA with experience in similar clean-up and rescue operations are being contacted.

In the event of a slick forming, specialist teams would contain the fuel and apply chemicals to neutralise the floating oil.

Almost 97% of the Archipelago is an Ecuadorian national park, and its tourism generates over $100 million a year for the impoverished country.

In Context
Although the accident happened on the 16th January, no leak occurred until a few days later.

Eventually, as much as 180 thousand gallons of fuel escaped into the water.

A June 2002 report found the slick's effects had been very damaging to the ecology - up to 62% of the marine iguana population on one island had been killed off.

Captain Tarquino Arevalo of the Jessica admitted his navigational error caused the accident.

He was jailed for 90 days and had his professional licence suspended.


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