On Friday July 17, oil was spotted by a helicopter crew in reef waters south of Townsville, Queensland. According to a dispatch from Queensland Transport, the oily patches are about one meter in diameter, however the scope of the spill was not disclosed in the release nor was the origin. Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) said the slick was one kilometer long while other unconfirmed reports say that it is as much as 20 kilometers long.
Early Friday morning Fishermen told Townsville’s Coast Guard that they had seen an oil slick that was roughly 800 meters in diameter. MSQ said that they found an “oily residue” on the hull of the Townsville fisherman’s boat. The spill was originally reported to be about 10 nautical miles off Cape Upstart but later that evening it was reported to be about 18 nautical miles north-north east of Cape Upstart.
Cape Upstart is a national park in the Whitsunday between Ayr and Bowen, with important aboriginal middens. The park has granite headland covered in a range of vegetation types from vine thicket to heath. Significant areas of beach scrub and coastal dunes are also part of the park. It is recognized as an important ceremonial area for the Juru indigenous people.
This is not the first time there has been an oil spill in the area of the Great Barrier Reef. In March 2009, the MV Adventurer lost 100,000 litres of fuel oil along 60 kilometer of Moreton Bay in rough seas. That spill took over 1,425 people 16 months to clean up at a total cost of A$4 million. That including $A2 million of public funds. The MV Adventurer also left a 500-metre oil spill in the Brisbane River.
Attempts to locate and verify the recent oil spill are being co-ordinated by Townsville’s Water Police. The oil slick was confirmed by The Office of Maritime Safety. Road Safety and Ports, Energy and Water Supply is now investigating.
The source of the spill is still unknown.