The worst has happened. The whole week, environmentally-aware Brazilians had been fearing that the oil spill that spreads along the coast of the country while the government sits on its hands, would reach Abrolhos, the most important marine reserve in the south Atlantic and where Jubarte whales reproduce. And yesterday there were reports that small spills have been seen in the park.
According to a report by the Associated Press, naval and environmental officials said Saturday (2) that oil traces were removed from Santa Barbara Island in the Abrolhos park region off the coast of Bahia state.
Abrolhos Park has five islands and one of the country’s largest coral reefs, which have not yet been affected by the spill.
The oil was first seen off the northeastern coast of Brazil in late August. Despite warnings, only in October the federal government started to act, ignoring an emergency plan set up in 2013 for oil spills in national waters.
Citizens had to take responsibility in their own hands to save their livelihoods, since many of them live off tourism. Those who got into direct and unprotected contact with the crude oil showed up sick at local hospitals. Turtles, dolphins and sea birds were found dead, caked in oil.
So far, no one has been able to tell where the oil is coming from precisely. At first, the government tried to blame Venezuela. Then the minister of environment, Ricardo Salles, tweeted a photo of a Greenpeace ship which it said had been sailing in the region of the spill. Turned out the photo was from 2016 and had been taken in the Middle East. The latest speculation focuses on a Greek ship, which has rejected the accusation.