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Oil Spill Reinforces Need For Ban On Big Ships

Monday, February 09, 2004 - Dunedin

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Oil Spill Reinforces Need For Ban On Big Ships In Fiord

Sunday's oil spill in Milford Sound is proof that a recent decision to ban large ships from Doubtful Sound was necessary according to conservationists.

"Concern has been expressed about what might happen to any dolphin, seal or seabird that swims into the Milford diesel slick, but if heavy fuel oil had leaked it would have been more disastrous," Sue Maturin, Forest and Bird's Southern Conservation Officer said today.

"While light oils such as petrol and diesel do not usually stay long in the environment they can kill plants and animals that they touch," she said.

"Pollution creates long-term risks to wildlife wildlife, affecting their health, survival rates or ability to breed successfully. These impacts are very difficult to measure so it is unlikely that we will ever truly know the damage that this spill may have done to marine life in the Fiord," She said.

"While we welcome everybody's efforts to do all they could to prevent the diesel slick spreading, the fact that it has occurred at all and has spread so far into the fiord and its marine reserve, is very worrying," she said.

"This is one of New Zealand's most precious marine environments," she said.

"Not only has this spill highlighted the fact that accidents happen, but also the bigger the boat the bigger the potential spill," she said.

Fears of a large oil spill in Fiordland led Forest and Bird to seek a prohibition on big ships entering Doubtful Sound, as there were proposals to bring large water tankers into Doubtful to extract water from the Manapouri Tail Race.

Sue Maturin said she is relieved that the Society has reached agreement with Environment Southland and the Department of Conservation, so that big ships are now prohibited from entering Doubtful Sound.

"This has reduced the risk of a far worse spill than Milford Real Journey's disaster happening in Doubtful Sound," she said.

ENDS


Contact: Sue Maturin, Otago/Southland Field Officer, 03 477 9677 (w)

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