Queensland oil spill: Turtles, seabirds found slicked near Townsville
Two turtles and two seabirds have been found covered in oil in the wake of a spill near Townsville, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has confirmed.GBRMPA general manger operations Mark Read told reporters in Townsville that a large dead flatback turtle and a juvenile flatback turtle, plus two boobies, had been found covered in oil.However Mr Read said tests by veterinarian experts at James Cook University suggested the adult turtle may have died before the oil spill.
« It wasn’t killed by the oil, » Mr Read said.
Four beaches near Townsville have been closed by police all week, and the GBRMPA has for the first time confirmed small amounts of oil have been found in coral reefs near the Palm Islands north of Townsville.
Mr Read said GBRMPA would soon begin underwater surveys of the fringing reef areas.
« We are looking at the inter-tidal areas and some of the fringing reef areas around the Palm Islands and looking for oil there, » Mr Read said.
« We have been quite fortunate because at the moment there doesn’t appear to be a lot of oil on those coral reef areas, » he said.
Mr Read said the juvenile flatback turtle was washed onto Forrest Beach north of Townsville and handed to Townsville police.
« It was alive and it was definitely ‘oiled’, » Mr Read said.
« It had oil on the front of its body and on the top of its head. »
He said the marine park authority did not believe fish had been affected because they had not been washed up on the beaches where oil clumps had been found.
« If they were ingesting oil and it was toxic to their systems, you could expect they would be turning up in these places, » Mr Read said.
He said GBRMPA believed most of the toxic elements from the oil had been weathered from the remaining oil.
« We are thinking that since the oil has been at sea for so long, and it has been so weathered, most of the toxic compounds have left the oil itself.
« So in many ways it is probably a very good outcome for our local wildlife. »
Mr Read said some nearby corals could be impacted by « smothering ».
« There could be some problems with a bit of smothering and that sort of thing, but we expect the oil to break down pretty rapidly, » he said.
The four beaches closed by police during the clean-up will be re-opened for the weekend, Townsville harbourmaster Frank D’Souza said.
Oil samples have been taken from 12 of the 17 ships known to be in the Cape Upstart area when the oil spill was first reported.
Mr D’Souza said it could take « several weeks, maybe a month » before a final check on oil samples from the vessels could be compared with samples washing up on beaches.
This week Wendy Tubman of the North Queensland Conservation Council raised concerns the impact of the spill was being downplayed.
This was rejected by Maritime Safety Queensland and GBRMPA authorities on Thursday.
However earlier this week Professor Peter Harrison, the founding director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University, said seabirds, turtles and even migrating humpback whales in the coastal sea areas could be impacted over time.
Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-oil-spill-turtles-seabirds-found-slicked-near-townsville-20150730-gio7qm.html#ixzz3hRt6atdN