Palm oil has been confirmed as the substance washing up around Hong Kong as 10 beaches were closed on Sunday August 6.
The Marine Department has confirmed that the spill was caused by a collision between two cargo vessels near the Pearl River Estuary in the South China Sea, one of which sank, releasing 9,000 tonnes of oil into the water.
Six beaches were initially closed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) after “white oily substances” were spotted in the sea south of Hong Kong.
A further four beaches were then closed on Lantau after workers found “white, granular substances” on the shore at Pui O, Tong Fuk and Upper and Lower Cheung Sha, with reports of other parts of Hong Kong including Cheung Chau, Lamma and Hong Kong Island also being affected.
According to reports, residents have been complaining of a foul smell, caused by bacteria rapidly accumulating on the white chunks of solidified oil.
Posting on Facebook, Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd, said that the oil will eventually biodegrade, but will remove large amounts of oxygen from the sea, posing a serious risk to marine life.
A video uploaded by Gary on Monday showed a “feeding frenzy” of fish “gorging” on a glob of Palm Oil, confirming the impact that the spill is already having on marine life.
Palm oil is not toxic to humans but can be potentially lethal to dogs if eaten, and pet owners have been advised to be extra cautious around the white clumps on beaches.
Update 18/08/17: A total of 13 beaches around Hong Kong were closed due to Palm Oil, but are gradually being re-opened to the public.
Image: Facebook, Gary Stokes