Déjà Vu: Oil Spill in New Zealand

Tori Moses

As memories from the BP oil spill in the Gulf last year still resonate in the hearts of Americans, New Zealand faces a similar crisis. On Wednesday, October 5th, the MV Rena, a container ship, struck Astrolabe Reef, about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Tauranga, on the North Island.

Of the 1,700 cubic meters of fuel (about 450,000 gallons) the ship was carrying, a reported 20-30 cubic meters have already leaked into the ocean. No oil has been seen on the beaches nearby yet but it is expected to reach Tauranga’s coastline eventually.

It is still unknown how the ship struck the reef or exactly how much oil could leak. New Zealand’s oil spill response agency, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), said that a barge, the Awanuia, had pulled up alongside the ship and had begun pumping oil from the Rena. But incoming bad weather forecasts could lead to the break-up of the Rena, as one end is stuck on the reef while the other end floats free, stalling or even completely ending their progress.

Not only could this spill greatly affect the human population near by but also the animal. A total of seven birds – five little blue penguins and two shags – have been brought to a wildlife response center in Te Maunga with oil on their feathers. The animal welfare group Forest and Bird said the timing of the accident, in the middle of the breeding season for birds, was “disastrous”. The oil spill could also affect whales and dolphins calving in the area, as well as other species.