Krill Swarms Spark MV Rena Oil Spill Scare

Fly-over shots of the M/V Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef on October 8, three days after grounding. Photo: Dudley Clemens via MNZ
Fly-over shot of the M/V Rena aground on Astrolabe Reef on October 8, 2011, three days after its grounding, and a real oil spill coming from the vessel. Photo: Dudley Clemens via MNZ

Reports of “big blotches” of oil spotted near the wreck site of the MV Rena at Astrolabe Reef and feared to be coming from the ship’s remains have turned out to be just giant, perfectly natural swarms of krill.

Last week, the Bay of Plenty Times ran a report saying that large brown plumes were spotted near the site of the MV Rena, which shipwrecked on New Zealand’s Astrolabe Reef in October 2011. In their report, eyewitnesses described the “oil spill” as “big blotches everywhere”, but that it “dissipates almost immediately” after reaching the surface.

Responding to the reports, Rena’s owner Daina Shipping sent a Resolve Salvage & Fire crew out to investigate. What they found was that the reported oil spill was in fact just large swarms of krill, the tiny crustaceans found in all of the world’s oceans.

The oil spill scare comes amid the controversial decision by local authorities to abandon the remaining wreckage of the former Rena on the reef, including containers, debris, and an undetermined amount of residual oil.

The MV Rena ran aground on October 5, 2011 while carrying over 1,300 containers and 1,700 tons of heavy fuel oil, resulting in what has been called the worst maritime environmental disaster in the country’s history.