Fuel spill affects fishermen near Toksook Bay

by Angela Denning-Barnes on June 14, 2013

A small oil spill near Toksook Bay this week caused a setback for commercial and subsistence herring fishermen. The spill happened June 11 when a Northland barge unintentionally dumped about 30 gallons of diesel into the ocean.

At least that’s the guess as to the amount that spilled, according to Bob Carlson with the Department of Conservation in Bethel. He says a Northland worker inadvertently hit a fuel pump which overflowed a tank located on deck. Carlson says there’s no way to tell what the exact amount was. The company put out absorbent boom and pads around the vessel in an attempt to contain the spill.

Many fishing nets were in the water at the time, including those in the commercial herring fishery. Roderick Atti from Toksook Bay was one of the fishermen.

“Another boat came to advise us to bring in our net due to an oil spill close by,” Pavilla says. “Every one of the boats went over to the tender to deliver their fish before the oil reached that area.”

Toksook Bay City Manager, Paul Chimiugak, took pictures of the spill. He says fishermen were about a mile away from the barge and the fish buyer, Coastal Villages Seafoods, told them they had to stop their intake of fish that day because of possible contamination.

Some subsistence nets were even closer to the barge. Chimiugak says oil reached eight or nine of them. Residents pulled the nets out of the water, disposed of their catch, and put the nets in snow to try to clean them. Chimiugak is working with the DEC office for possible solutions. He says they are also checking out the nearby beach for possible contamination.

Carlson says the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been notified.

-with help from Melvin Pavilla

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