By Sophie Squire
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Is oil company Repsol using disaster to duck responsibility for spill in Peru?

Scientists found no connection between the spill and an eruption thousands of miles away
Issue 2789
A cleanup worker holds up a bedraggled, oil soaked bird

The oil spill killed wildlife and damaged fishers’ livelihoods (Picture: Oefa Peru)

The Peruvian government declared a climate emergency this week after 6,000 barrels of crude oil, owned by the company Repsol, spilled into the South Pacific Ocean.

The spill has hit over 20 beaches along the country’s coasts, killing and injuring marine life. Hundreds of dead birds have been seen floating in the sea covered in oil. And the spill is already having a devastating impact on those who live in Peru’s coastal areas.

Fisher Bernardo Espinoza told reporters, “Right in the middle of high season they have gone and basically cut off our arms,”

“We can’t work. We already are using up the last of our savings.”

Another fisher, Giovana Rugel, said, “Nothing is selling at all. The fish more than anything comes out with the smell of oil, and people don’t buy it, they don’t eat it because they are afraid of getting poisoned by it, by the oil spill.

Fishers protested and held a sit-in outside Repsol refinery in the province of Callao to demand action be taken against the company last week.

They held signs reading, “Repsol killer of marine fauna,” and, “No to ecological crime.”

The spill is likely to have a terrible impact on biodiversity and industry in the years to come, but what caused it is highly contested.

The widely supposed view is that large waves caused by the eruption of an undersea volcano near Tonga hit an oil tanker that was unloading. This is the version of the story that Repsol has gone with.

The company denied all responsibility for the incident, saying it could not predict the weather conditions that supposedly caused the spill. But a new report from Peru’s Supervisory Body for Investment in Energy and Mining contradicts this. 

The report conducted by scientists found no connection between the spill and the eruption of the volcano thousands of miles away.

Instead the report concluded the spill was much more likely caused by sudden movement by the Mare Doricum tanker, causing it to rupture. 

The Supervisory Body for Investment in Energy and Mining has now asked Repsol what it did to stop the spill. Initial reports by the company said that only very small amounts of oil had spilt into the ocean.

And in a statement Peru’s environmental assessment and enforcement agency agreed that Repsol had not done enough to stop more damage to wildlife after the spill.

Irresponsible companies dead set on making as much profit as possible are causing devastation to the planet that will impact the poorest first.

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