UPDATE: Coast Guard, partner agencies respond to pollution incident after fishing vessel sinks off San Juan Island

united states coast guard 

News Release  

U.S. Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest
Contact: 13th District Public Affairs
Office: (206) 220-7237
After Hours: (206) 251-3237
13th District online newsroom

UPDATE: Coast Guard, partner agencies respond to pollution incident after fishing vessel sinks off San Juan Island

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard and partner agencies activated a unified command today, at 9 a.m., to continue coordinated response after a pollution incident occurred west of San Juan Island, Washington, Saturday, Aug. 13. Following the activation of the Unified Command, the USCANPAC Joint Response Team (JRT) was activated, which is a tool used to help facilitate information and resource sharing across the international boundary.

After the fishing vessel Aleutian Isle sank in the vicinity of Sunset Point, a sheen was observed spanning more than two miles and was reported to have entered Canadian waters during the evening hours.

The vessel was reported to have approximately 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel and a combined 100 gallons of hydraulic fluid and lubricant oil aboard. The maximum capacity of the fuel tank is 4,000 gallons. The vessel continues to release small amounts of diesel.

Coast Guard crews, along with personnel from NOAA, The Whale Museum and Sound Watch program remained on scene throughout the night utilizing underwater hydrophone acoustics to monitor the affected area and surrounding waters for any marine mammal activity with particular focus on the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population. While some members of the SRKWs were near the southern tip of San Juan Island at the time of the incident, no SRKWs were observed to be in the immediate proximity of the affected area and recent reports show them moving west in the Port Angeles area.

The Coast Guard Cutter Swordfish is on scene to manage vessel traffic surrounding the area and enforce laws and regulations to protect marine species.

The safety of the local public and their interests, and preservation of the environment and protected marine species, continue to be the top priorities throughout the response and recovery process. Locally, community air monitoring equipment has been moved into the San Juan islands to monitor the level of airborne contaminants to ensure the safety of the local community.

Commercial divers and salvage teams have been contracted and arrived on scene yesterday evening. A plan is being developed to efficiently and safely enact containment and recovery of pollutants, removal of potential pollutants from the sunken vessel, and potential salvage of the wreckage. Boom and other materials have been deployed to recover pollutants and protect environmentally sensitive areas.

The vessel now lies at a depth of more than 100 feet of water. This and other factors are being taken into account as dive and salvage personnel develop a plan of action which must be approved by the unified command. Contractors developed a plan and worked to pre-stage equipment on San Juan Island earlier. Diving operations are expected to commence on Monday, Aug. 15 and divers will work to conduct an on-scene assessment, plug the vents and then begin the defueling process. In order to ensure a safe work environment for divers, a safety zone will be implemented at 7 a.m. tomorrow for a distance of 1,000 yards around all responding dive boats.

The following state/federal organizations are involved in the unified command:

  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Washington State Department of Ecology
  • San Juan County Office of Emergency Management
  • Swinomish Tribe

With support from partner agencies:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Island Oil Spill Association
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The unified command understands that people may be interested in volunteering. While we are still in the initial phases of the response, should volunteers be needed they will be pulled from a roster maintained by the Washington Department of Ecology. If you are interested in being on that roster, sign up at https://www.oilspills101.wa.gov/volunteer-registration/.

To report any oiled wildlife, please call 1-800-22-BIRDS.

incident-specific webpage has been created by Washington Department of Ecology. Developing updates will also be posted periodically on the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest social media accounts listed below.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USCGPNW
Twitter: https://twitter.com/USCGPacificNW
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/uscgpacificnw/