Peruvian oil spill catches researchers, citizens off guard


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | March 9, 2022

Two months after Peru’s worst ever environmental coastline disaster, scientists are calling for Peru to end its reliance on oil.

Scientists and authorities are assessing the damage’s extents, according to the scientific journal Nature. Reports have found the oil spread to more than 25 beaches, reaching more than 41 kilometers of coastline. Deyvis Huamán, a conservation biologist with Peru’s National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP) in Lima, said the destruction was astonishing and a tragedy. Such spread of oil is unprecedented in the country and in recent history.

No one in Peru was prepared for the oil spill, Peruvian environmental lawyer Carmen Heck said. Peru is a large fishing country and has one of the most productive seas on the planet, so the oil will drastically impact the environment and the livelihoods of residents. Many fish and other aquatic animals are expected to perish as a result of the oil spreading. It is unclear to authorities, researchers, and locals as to how the oil moved so far so quickly.

Most recent reports found beaches have been tarred, pollution has reached three protected marine reserves, and more than 1,000 seabirds were coated with oil. The issue has raised the question of who pays for environmental crimes during the climate crisis and what can be done to prevent similar ones. Environmentalists are calling for a decreased reliance on oil within the South American country, but no laws have been put in place to achieve that yet. Under Peru’s strict liability law, the Spanish energy company Repsol that manages the oil refinery where the spill came from is ultimately responsible for the spill. It is unclear how payment will occur, when the oil spill will be cleaned up, and if the wildlife will ever return to normal.

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