Sunken fishing vessel removed from Salish Sea after ‘complex’ diving operation

The U.S. Coast Guard said a fishing boat that sank in mid-August and lost fuel in Haro Strait between Vancouver Island and San Juan Island in Washington state was safely removed from the Salish Sea on Monday.

In a statement on Thursday, the USCG said the Aleutian island had been salvaged, emptied and put on a rescue barge more than a month after it sank on Saturday August 13.

“We are pleased to see the ship safely out of the water,” said USCG Cmdr. Kira Moody.

Authorities say the boat, which was carrying around 9,460 liters of diesel fuel, no longer poses a significant threat to the environment.

There had been a light diesel fuel leak after she sank, which experts say is nearly impossible to clean up. The Coastguard had crews working to keep whales and birds away from the spill site while divers worked to contain the fuel.

One of the main concerns was the location of the spill, being in the middle of critical habitat for the southern resident killer whale, an endangered species that often preys on Chinook salmon off the island of San John.

“Although the vessel has been removed from the water, we will continue to monitor for any residual fuel that may impact shoreline or wildlife,” said Dave Byers, on-site coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology.

An oil slick is seen on the water near San Juan Island, Wash. Saturday, August 13, 2022. A fishing boat that sank off the island’s coast, near Vancouver Island , has now been safely removed according to the US Coast Guardian. (US Coast Guard)

While the fuel spill happened in US waters, because it was possible it was going to Canada, the US and Canadian Coast Guards responded.

US officials said the boat was recovered from more than 75 meters of water on September 17 “after weeks of complex diving operations”. They said the boat was towed to Mitchell Bay on San Juan Island, where divers and response teams prepared it for the final lift out of the water on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard said pollution responders on scene reported no visible shrapnel in the area of ​​the incident.

Officials said the boat will be taken to a mainland facility for further investigation into the causes of its sinking and whether its crew faces fines for disobeying water pollution laws.

The USCG says anyone who spots animals with oil can call the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1-800-22-BIRDS.

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