This story has been updated to reflect developments since the initial reports.
A response team is in Slocum Arm, north of Sitka, tending to oil leaking from a seine boat. The 50-foot Evening Star sank while fishing on August 2nd. The vessel is about 40 miles northwest of Sitka, along the southwestern part of Chichagof Island. The vessel reportedly had 1,000 gallons of diesel aboard.
A mile-long sheen was seen on Tuesday, but state environmental officials say the amount of oil coming from the boat is relatively light.
The oil sheen was spotted during an overflight by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A smaller sheen was visible immediately following the sinking, and it prompted an emergency closure of the nearby salmon fishery. State officials say no impacts to fish or wildlife have been reported.
But responders are working to contain the oil.
“It looks like it’s terrible, because it’s this rainbow color, and that’s very very thin,” said Scot Tiernan, with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. “There’s not a whole lot of oil there.”
Tiernan said when the vessel went down, the vents on its fuel tank were sealed. What’s visible in the water is probably engine oil of some sort. A DEC situation report said the engine room holds approximately 25 gallons of lube oil and a 160-gallon hydraulic oil tank.
A response team from SEAPRO deployed from Sitka to contain the oil. SEAPRO stands for the Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization. The Ketchikan-based group responds to oil spills.
“The plan is to try to get boom around the vessel so if anything is coming up that they can try to corral it there and then try to pick it up,” Tiernan said. “The oil that’s already gotten out will have evaporated a little bit, so there’s even less out there than originally came out. Collecting the stuff that’s a mile away from the vessel is probably not practical.”
Responders also are keeping their eye on the shoreline.
“There is a stream in the area that we believe is an anadromous stream, or a salmon-bearing stream,” he said. “One of the things SEAPRO will be doing is putting a deflection boom out to try and keep the oil away from the mouth of that stream.”
The Evening Star’s crew escaped the sinking safely and were transported back to Sitka by a good Samaritan vessel. The 50-foot seiner, meanwhile, is nose down with about 10 feet of water over its stern. Operations on removing fuel from the vessel and salvaging it are scheduled to begin next week.