Unalaska cleans up fish oil spill

Fish oil pours out of a punctured shipping container. (David Toonan/U.S. Coast Guard)
Fish oil pours out of the punctured shipping container. (David Tonon/U.S. Coast Guard)

A forklift punctured a shipping container filled with fish oil in Unalaska on Thursday, spilling it across a shipyard. Fish oil is considered an environmental hazard, but far less damaging than crude oil. Some of the bright orange oil flowed into a storm drain and into the ocean. Resolve Marine stopped it from spreading more by plugging the drain with gravel and dirt.

A couple hundred gallons of the 5,700-gallon bladder made it into the ocean. But U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Andres Ayure said because fish oil is biodegradable, it’s not too hard on the environment.

“Technically, in large quantities it could be seen as a marine pollutant. But in the quantities that we saw and with the weather we had, it will disperse, emulsify very quickly, and not harm the environment,” said Ayure.

Calm seas made it easier to contain and clean up the fish oil. If it had not spilled, the fish oil would have been shipped off the island and processed into products like fish oil supplements.

Shipping company Matson is responsible for the spill and for the cleanup, which Ayure said can be costly. The Coast Guard is also putting together a report on the incident and Matson could face fines and further penalties.

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