Coast Guard, partner agencies respond to pollution incident after fishing vessel sinks off San Juan Island
SEATTLE — Unified Command of Coast Guard, Washington State Department of Ecology, San Juan Office of Emergency Management and the Swinomish Tribe continue their coordinated response after a pollution incident occurred following the sinking of commercial fishing vessel Aleutian Isle west of San Juan Island, Washington, Saturday, Aug. 13.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 2,100 feet of boom was placed throughout the affected areas stretching from Smallpox Bay, near Sunset Point, to the south end of Henry Island. Observers on scene are using drone assets and other means to monitor the observable sheen to direct continued response action.
Commercial dive and salvage teams arrived on scene Saturday afternoon to remove the remaining fuel from the sunken vessel. With the arrival and staging of necessary equipment, including decompression chambers, dive operations began Monday to evaluate the condition of the Aleutian Isle and to remove potentially hazardous materials from the wreck. To ensure a safe work environment for divers, safety zones extending 1,000 yards around all responding dive boats were established at 7 a.m. and remain in effect.
Divers are working to plug the vents on the sunken vessel to stop the release of diesel fuel before they begin lightering operations to remove the remaining fuel from the vessel.
The Coast Guard continues to manage vessel traffic in the area. Crews on scene can be contacted directly on VHF marine-band radio channel 16.
Dive operations maintain the priorities of safety and efficiency as the situation on scene is dynamic and complex. A detached fishing net from the vessel has been observed in the waters nearby the dive operations, and crews are working to remove the netting to ensure the safety of divers, responders on scene, and wildlife. Additionally, the sunken vessel has shifted to deeper water, requiring further logistical considerations as underwater operations are carried out.
Along with the containment and recovery response for the preservation of ecologically sensitive areas, the protection of marine mammal species such as the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population continues to be a focal priority.
Partner agencies, including the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others have staged specialized marine mammal acoustic deterrence teams in Snug Harbor. These deterrence methods of not been necessary as no SRKWs have been observed in the vicinity of the affected area.
The Department of Ecology continues to monitor air quality in nearby areas. No monitors have shown any result above background levels.
The Unified Command is working alongside partner agencies, including the Canadian Regional Operations Center, to track SRKWs utilizing hydrophone and sonogram technology. The whales were spotted near Port Angeles, heading west and away from San Juan Island as of Sunday evening and Monday morning.
An 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.
- March 2: FV Aleutian Isle Response: Challenges and Opportunities - Special meeting in Friday Harbor
- Sept 22: Aleutian Isle no longer significant threat to environment in the San Juan Islands
- Sept. 21 Update: Aleutian Isle on barge, 40 days after sinking to 200-foot depth
- Sept. 20 Aleutian Isle Update: Vessel moved to shallower Mitchell Bay, dewatering and rerigging underway
- Update 10: Further Aleutian Isle lifting operations postponed due to weight
- Aleutian Isle successfully raised to surface; no whales in area
- Lifting of the Aleutian Isle underway
- UPDATE 9: Final preparations underway for lifting fishing vessel Aleutian Isle
- Sept. 12 Update: Aleutian Isle recovery efforts
- Sept 9 Update: Rigging Aleutian Isle for lift will take a few more days
- Sept. 4 Update Aleutian Isle: Wreck cleared of entanglements; rigging begun
- Sept. 2 Aleutian Isle Update: All valves and vents closed off by divers
- Sept. 1: Divers removing netting from wreck of Aleutian Isle
- Aleutian Isle lying on starboard side 200 ft down; TFR extended to Oct. 15
- Boaters asked to abide by safety zone restrictions near wreck site
- Aleutian Isle incident: Equipment on site, recovery will take 10 days once started
- U.S. and Canadian crews conduct transboundary whale deterrents drill
- August 25 Update: No sheen observed
- UPDATE #7: Efforts to bring sunken fishing boat up expected to begin Friday
- IOSA survey to gauge potential IOSA responder availability
- County Council met with response team last week; recording available
- Update 6: Specialized diving equipment will take a few days to arrive
- Coast Guard plans to remove entire FV Aleutian Isle from ocean floor
- 10 years ago, SeaDoc Society created a plan used today to keep orcas out of an oil spill
- Coast Guard Update 4: No marine, terrestrial, or airborne wildlife appear to have been affected
- Coast Guard Update 3: Depth of sunken boat increases difficulty for divers, ROV brought in, nets recovered
- Coast Guard Monday evening Update: Boat now in 200 ft of water
- August 13: An "epic" encounter with J, K, and L pods
- Coast Guard Update: Divers on scene assessing possible defueling of sunken fishing boat
- Sunday evening update from Coast Guard about sunken fishing boat
- Opportunity lost
- San Juan County's view of diesel/oil spill situation
- Hotline to report sighting of oiled wildlife - 1-800-22-BIRDS.
- Coast Guard update on diesel/oil spill off of San Juan Island
- Diesel/oil spill off Sunset Point west side of San Juan Island