Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

Oil Spill Response Continues for Sunken Fishing Vessel in Washington

Mike Schuler
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August 22, 2022

A Unified Command continues to respond to a sunken commercial fishing vessel that has spilled diesel fuel west of San Juan Island in Washington.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound were notified at approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 14, that the fishing vessel Aleutian Isle was taking on water and in need of emergency assistance in the vicinity of Sunset Point near the U.S-Canadian border, east of Victoria, B.C. All five crewmembers were rescued by a good samaritan as the vessel sank in about 100 feet of water.

The 49-foot Aleutian Isle was reported to have 2,500 gallons of diesel on board at the time of the sinking, with approximately 100 gallons of motor oil and other oils.

It’s unclear exactly how much diesel has leaked so far. Following the sinking, a sheen was observed spanning more than two miles and was reported to have entered Canadian waters. The vessel may still be leaking small amounts of diesel.

Coordinated efforts are now underway to remove the entirety of the vessel from the seafloor and have it placed on to a barge, where contaminants can then be safely removed. “This is the best course of action to ensure the removal of as much pollutants and contamination as possible from the environmentally sensitive area,” the Unified Command said in its latest update.

The Aleutian Isle now lies at a depth of over 200 feet, making it difficult for divers to reach it. Dive operations have been placed on hold as the team awaited the arrival of specialized equipment.

The Unified Command consists of the Coast Guard, Washington State Department of Ecology, San Juan Office of Emergency Management, and the Swinomish Tribe.

Officials have been monitoring the location of the Southern Resident Killer Whales to ensure they stay clear of the area. So far no oiled wildlife has been observed.

Over the weekend, an additional 1500-feet of boom was placed around White Point Peninsula as a precautionary measure in case any new sheening appears.

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