Pacific Island wakes up to threat of oil spills

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Coral reefs and marine ecosystems in the Milne Bay Province of the Pacific Island nation of Papua New Guinea are at serious risk of long-term environmental damage. The reason: an oil spill from a ship that ran aground on a reef on Kwaiawata Island on Christmas Eve, and authorities’ long delay in mobilising an appropriate response to the accident.

“The area has some of the fastest currents in the world and this delay has increased the likelihood of the oil spreading quickly beyond the vessel,” Chalapan Kaluwin, professor of environmental science at the University of Papua New Guinea, told IPS.

“It is too early to assess the full scale of the damage, but there are fragile marine and island ecosystems in this area and the impacts on reefs, marine life and the marine resources that island communities depend on is likely to be long term, rather than short term.”

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