FEB 25, 2018 3:30 PM PST

Seafood contamination feared after spill in East China Sea

In early January one of the largest oil spills in decades occurred in the East China Sea after an oil tanker and another cargo ship collided. Labroots reports, “An Iranian oil tanker that crashed into a Hong Kong-registered vessel on January 7 has been ablaze since and has now sunk, leaving many concerned over the oil spill it left in its wake. The tanker was carrying 136,000 tons of oil – around 1 million barrels valued at $60 million – from Iran to South Korea when the collision occurred, making it the biggest tanker spill since 1991.”

Before the spill, the East China Sea had a thriving marine ecosystem and boasted a profitable fisheries industry, rich in crab, squid, yellow croaker, mackerel, to name a few. Experts worried that marine life would be affected following the spill and in the ensuing clean up. And indeed, now, just under two months later, a concern about contamination in seafood has arisen.

A report from the BBC stated that satellite images showed that fishing activities by Chinese vessels were ongoing throughout the days after the spill. The tanker was carrying a substance called natural gas condensate, which is highly toxic and, according to the BBC, invisible. Though the spill was originally thought to have contaminated a 10-square kilometer area and the agriculture ministry declared a 30 nautical-mile radius of “prohibited zone”, it is difficult to pinpoint the contamination due to the substance’s properties. The scientists who looked at the satellite imagery suspect that over 400 vessels were not respecting those regulations.

Brad Soule, chief analyst with the non-profit OceanMind that tracks fishing activities, said: "Based on our analysis, we estimate fishing activities to have likely continued in the area since the incident occurred, including within 60 nautical miles of the sinking site.”

Source: The New York Times

According to experts, closing fisheries should be one of the first steps taken after such a spill. Yet marine scientist Richard Steiner stated that the Chinese government delayed in doing so. Following the New York Times, fish samples taken on February 1 contained traces of petroleum hydrocarbons. It has not yet been determined whether potentially contaminated seafood from the area has yet to reach fish markets around the world.

Marine biologist Dr. Corina Ciocan from the University of Brighton spoke frankly about the impacts that oil spills have on marine ecosystems: "In any spill event, fuel oil will produce damage on the shore, whilst light oil like kerosene and petrol will have much more impact on marine species because of the persistence in the water column. Mollusks and other filter feeding and sessile organisms are particularly affected by oil spills, as well as caged fish or coral fish - those are able to absorb high quantities of petroleum hydrocarbons present within their limited territory."

Sources: The BBC, Lonely Nature, The Guardian

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Surprisingly, human nose adaptations are not always driven by colder climates
AUG 09, 2021
Surprisingly, human nose adaptations are not always driven by colder climates
New research suggests that human nose shape is not only driven by cold climates, as previously thought
AUG 10, 2021
Plants & Animals
World Lion Day - Lions Under Threat
AUG 10, 2021
World Lion Day - Lions Under Threat
Lions are large charismatic predators that we love to adore. But human-lion conflicts are on the rise as we continue to ...
AUG 11, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Solve Jupiters 'Energy Crisis'
AUG 11, 2021
Researchers Solve Jupiters 'Energy Crisis'
Astronomers have solved Jupiter's 'Energy Crisis', a long-standing issue that has puzzled scientists for dec ...
AUG 22, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Fire Season in the Far North? The Wildfires of Siberia
AUG 22, 2021
Fire Season in the Far North? The Wildfires of Siberia
Fires have spread across over 10 million acres in Siberia
SEP 02, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The Future of Room-Temperature Superconductors
SEP 02, 2021
The Future of Room-Temperature Superconductors
It begins with two diamonds, a pinch of carbon, sulfur, and a whiff of hydrogen gas. The result is the world’s fir ...
SEP 28, 2021
Microbiology
A 24,000-Year-Old Rotifer From the Siberian Arctic is Alive & Thriving
SEP 28, 2021
A 24,000-Year-Old Rotifer From the Siberian Arctic is Alive & Thriving
This image by Michael Plewka shows a very tough old rotifer.
Loading Comments...