Ship carrying 47 barrels of diesel sinks near ecologically vulnerable Galapagos Islands

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A ship carrying 47 diesel barrels sank off the coast of one of Ecuador’s ecologically sensitive Galapagos Islands on Saturday.

The ship, named Albatroz, sank near Santa Cruz Island, according to state-owned oil company Petroecuador.

The company said a contingency plan had been activated, with containment barriers being placed around the site of the sinking.

On board the submersible were 47 barrels of diesel fuel which, according to the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment, left a “surface” smear.

All four crew members were able to escape safely from the wreck, Petroecuador added.

Images released by Galapagos National Park social media show officials reacting to the sinking of the diesel ship

An aerial view of the shipwreck shows the containment buffers used to contain potential diesel spills

An aerial view of the shipwreck shows the containment buffers used to contain potential diesel spills

A ship loaded with diesel sank off the coast of one of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands near Santa Cruz Island on Saturday.  Pictured: An endemic Galapagos giant tortoise

A ship loaded with diesel sank off the coast of one of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands near Santa Cruz Island on Saturday. Pictured: An endemic Galapagos giant tortoise

According to the Environment Department, the boat carried about 47 barrels of diesel fuel and left a

According to the Environment Department, the boat carried about 47 barrels of diesel fuel and left a “surface” oil slick in its wake. Pictured: Authorities stationed at the site of the sunken boat

A tweet posted by the Galapagos National Park's official account outlined an

A tweet posted by the Galapagos National Park’s official account outlined an “contingency plan” that includes the use of dispersants and containment barriers. Pictured: Dispersant being added to the water by two men

A containment tree will be erected around the dump site to prevent diesel from spreading beyond the zone

A containment tree will be erected around the dump site to prevent diesel from spreading beyond the zone

Authorities said attempts were being made to bring the sunken boat back to the surface

Authorities said attempts were being made to bring the sunken boat back to the surface

Stingrays swim in the Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Islands, where a ship loaded with diesel was wrecked on Saturday

Stingrays swim in the Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Islands, where a ship loaded with diesel was wrecked on Saturday

The damage caused by the sinking of the ship named Albatroz is still unknown, as is the amount of fuel on board at the time and the amount that may have spilled.  Pictured: A Galapagos hammerhead shark

The damage caused by the sinking of the ship named Albatroz is still unknown, as is the amount of fuel on board at the time and the amount that may have spilled. Pictured: A Galapagos hammerhead shark

The ship sank near Santa Cruz Island, one of the thirteen main islands of the Galapagos Archipelago

The ship sank near Santa Cruz Island, one of the thirteen main islands of the Galapagos Archipelago

On Twitter, the Galapagos National Park’s official account said that a dispersant had been used to “limit any potential negative impact on the environment.”

According to the tweet, an attempt was made to drag Albatroz back to the surface.

Known for its giant tortoises, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is notable for being the only place on earth that is home to thousands of species.

The Coast Guard, pictured Saturday, was working to stem the spread of the oil slick

The Coast Guard, pictured Saturday, was working to stem the spread of the oil slick

The Coast Guard was taken to the site of the doomed vessel that was transporting 47 barrels of diesel near the ecologically vulnerable Galapagos Archipelago

The Coast Guard was taken to the site of the doomed vessel that was transporting 47 barrels of diesel near the ecologically vulnerable Galapagos Archipelago

An enlarged marine reserve of around 40,000 square miles was announced around the Galapagos Islands by Ecuador in January following an agreement at COP26

An enlarged marine reserve of around 40,000 square miles was announced around the Galapagos Islands by Ecuador in January following an agreement at COP26

The sunken ship, a submersible called the Albatroz, is being pulled out of the water as part of a contingency plan

The sunken ship, a submersible called the Albatroz, is being pulled out of the water as part of a contingency plan

Absorbent material is placed near the burial site by first responders

Absorbent material is placed near the burial site by first responders

An estimated 97 percent of Galapagos reptiles are found nowhere else on earth

An estimated 97 percent of Galapagos reptiles are found nowhere else on earth

An estimated 80 percent of the archipelago's land birds are endemic to the archipelago

An estimated 80 percent of the archipelago’s land birds are endemic to the archipelago

The sinking of the diesel ship comes just months after Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso expanded the protected marine zone around the Galapagos Islands by nearly 40,000 square miles.

Expanding the marine reserve around the archipelago was the first step in a plan Ecuador agreed with Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama at last year’s COP26 in Glasgow to create an underwater corridor through which marine animals threatened by climate change can safely migrate.

In January, after signing a decree creating the Protected Marine Zone, President Guillermo Lasso said, “We are declaring a Marine Protected Area covering an area of ​​60,000 square kilometers, equivalent to an area three times the size of Belize” around the Galapagos Islands.

The Remarkable Biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands

An estimated 97 percent of the Galapagos reptiles and 80 percent of the archipelago’s land birds are found nowhere else.

These statistics make the archipelago one of the places on the planet with the highest levels of “endemism” — that is, species found nowhere else on Earth.

The Pacific islands, some 600 miles from Ecuador, inspired British naturalist Charles Darwin, who visited at the age of 22 aboard HMS Beagle, to write The Origin of Species, considered the founding document of evolutionary biology.

Because the archipelago is at a point where major ocean currents meet, it has a marine environment that “combines the nutrient-rich cool waters from the south with warm currents from the north and a deep cold current from the west,” Galapagos explains Conservancy .

As a result, the environment has produced unique marine species, such as the world’s only aquatic iguana.

Even species found elsewhere around the world are sometimes allowed to behave remarkably in Galapagos – something that the unique environment allows for.

Tuna, golden rays and hammerhead sharks, for example, can be seen off the Galapagos coast, although they usually lurk elsewhere in the murky depths.

The Galapagos Islands are also famous for the world’s northernmost living penguins – with all other species of the waddling bird living in the southern hemisphere.

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