Penguins Threatened by New Zealand Oil Spill

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


A family of little blue penguins, Eudyptula minor, exit their nest burrow.: Credit: Noodle snacks via Wikimedia Commons.A family of little blue penguins, Eudyptula minor, exit their nest burrow.: Credit: Noodle snacks via Wikimedia CommonThe New Zealand Herald reports the country is facing one of its worst ecological disasters as the stricken tanker Rena is now in danger of breaking apart. The ship grounded 20 kilometers/12 miles off Tauranga Harbour on the North Island after striking a reef on Wednesday.

The Rena is carrying 1,700 cubic meters/450,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The race is onto siphon off—or at least contain—the oil before the ship sinks. From the New Zealand Herald:

More resources and special equipment [are] likely to be needed during the operation. An offshore boom barrier device to ring-fence the oil—measuring about 1250m [three-quarters of a mile]—was being transported from Australia along with three heavy skimmers to scoop it from the water. A salvage architect was due to arrive from Holland, with further expert help from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority also on their way.

 

Site of the grounding of the MV Rena, off the North Island of New Zealand. : Satellite image courtesy of NASA/JPL/NGA.Site of the grounding of the MV Rena, off the North Island of New Zealand. : Satellite image courtesy of NASA/JPL/NGA.

Meanwhile, heavier weather is bearing down on New Zealand, including a forecast for rain and strengthening northeasterly winds on Monday—when the pumping operation is slated to begin.

Most worrisome, it’s spring in the southern hemisphere, and many seabirds along New Zealand’s coast are breeding. This is prime egg-laying/chick-hatching season for little blue penguins (called fairy penguins in Australia), who come ashore en masse each dusk to exchange incubation duties or feed their chick, before departing again en masse before dawn to hunt.
 

 (The sound of little blue penguins calling at dusk in New Zealand. Credit: Benchill (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

So far, seven oiled birds—five little blue penguins and two cormorants—have been taken to a wildlife center at Tauranga Harbour. The New Zealand Herald reports:

“It’s a very difficult situation and the reality is that we are going to see a significant oil spill,” [Transport Minister Steven] Joyce said. “So far it’s been reasonably small, so I think everybody’s preparing for the worst. We are dealing with a very serious situation … and I don’t think anybody is under any illusions.”


 

Cookie, the ticklish little blue/fairy penguin at the Cincinnati Zoo, is a great ambassador for his kind—who may not be so well known on distant shores. 

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest