Swift clean-up after oil spill in conservation area

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 3:40am

An oil spill found at a dolphin conservation area yesterday was quickly cleaned up, and its impact was minor, conservation officers said.

The slick, covering about 50 square metres, was found about 1,500 metres southwest of Sha Chau in western Hong Kong waters at about 11.30am yesterday, according to the Marine Department.

It was cleaned up by spraying seawater to dilute the oil. The source of the oil slick is still being investigated, the department said.

A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the spill was inside the Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park, but that the effect was minimal as it had been cleaned up immediately after being found.

Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Samuel Hung Ka-yiu said the area was a Chinese white dolphin hot spot and had been designated as a conservation area, mainly to protect the dolphins.

"Marine parks are ecologically sensitive areas," he said. "But if the oil spills are cleared quickly, the problem is not big."

The spill was relatively small and might have come from a leak when boat fuel tanks were being filled, Hung said. But bigger slicks, such as those from sea collisions, could kill fish and deprive dolphins of food.

Long-term exposure to oil can also damage dolphins' respiratory systems.

The department said it would continue to look out for any effects from the oil spill but that none had been found so far.

The 1,200-hectare marine park was designated as such in 1996.

The area is a nursing ground for many coastal and oceanic fish and shellfish species.

In addition to being an important habitat for Chinese white dolphins, the area is also well known as a rich fishing resource.