The oil spill that has spread across the northeastern coast of Brazil has traveled southwards and reached the southeast. On Thursday 7, fragments of oil were spotted in Guriri, in the north of Espírito Santo State. Then, by Sunday the oil had traveled further south and arrived at Pontal de Ipiranga, where Projeto Tamar, Brazil’s leading turtle protection NGO, keeps a turtle nesting base from where baby turtles crawl towards the ocean.
Tests carried out by the Navy confirmed the oil was the same as the oil that has polluted beaches, mangrove swamps, shorelines and river deltas further north.
Projeto Tamar says they monitor and protect on average 200 nests of a turtle type known as loggerhead (Caretta caretta). The females every year travel to this region to build the nests where they will lay their eggs.
“We are in the reproduction period,” Ciro Jardel Bérgamo told Agência Brasil. “So far, we already have mapped out 206 nests along 43 kilometers of beach. Besides that, we can confirm a giant turtle spawning, which means around 80 giant turtles are about to hatch,” he added.
Bérgamo said there are around 60 naval staff and 15 Ibama (the federal government’s environmental agency) staff on the site trying to clean up the beach, but small fragments keep coming. “They are small plaques of around 3cm or 4cm and they have fouled a long stretch of sand. Our concern is for the females to bury their eggs with the oil that has contaminated the sand. Also, if the beach is not thoroughly ridden of the oil, baby turtles could come in contact with it when the reach the ocean.”
So far no one has been able to track down the source of the oil spill. The government at first said it was of Venezuelan origin but without any evidence to back its claim. More recently, it tried to shift the blame to a Greek vessel, which then proved it had arrived at its destination with the oil said to have leaked. Other sources claim the oil may be flowing from the seabed as a consequence of a pre-salt drilling gone wrong.
Meanwhile, people whose livelihoods depend on a (clean) sea look in despair at the damage being done, while hundreds of animals have been found dead.