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Marine conservation society urges government to take action over fears of a second wave of palm oil

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The environmental group Sea Shepherd has this week urged the government to take concrete action to address the ongoing risk to Hong Kong’s marine life posed by the recent palm oil spill.

In an open letter to the Marine Department, Asia Director Gary Stokes expressed deep concerns over the risk of a second wave of palm oil washing up on Hong Kong’s eastern shore and offered the organization’s time and manpower to help clean up the mess.

“What [we] are seeing on Lamma is nothing to what we can expect next week on eastern beaches,” Gary warned. “Sea Shepherd and various other NGOs and volunteers are here to assist the government departments as and when needed,” he wrote. “Working together we achieved great things in 2012,” he said, referring to the plastic pellet spill that had blighted Hong Kong’s coastline.

The letter called upon the Marine Department to provide information that could be used to “better handle the situation,” including GPS information about the location of the spill to assist with tidal current and wind models, as well as more information about the types of vessels and volume of spillage from the collision. It explained that this would help to “ascertain the amount of palm oil released into the marine environment,” so that “we can then start counting off what is retrieved.”

Of the estimated 9,000 tonnes of palm oil leaked into the South China Sea, less than 100 tonnes have been collected from Hong Kong’s beaches so far. Palm oil remains solid when in water, but can reach melting point on land, making it extremely difficult to remove from beaches.

Sea Shepherd has suggested that the Marine Department should secure pollution booms across the beaches at risk so that the worst of the spill can be collected by scavenger boats. Even if no more oil arrives, this would, argues Gary, prove that the Marine Department is taking “serious precautionary measures.”

Image: Facebook, Sea Shepherd

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