SA’s Garden Route beaches closed after oil droplets wash up ashore

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has dispatched a team to render assistance to the Garden Route areas affected by oil droplets which washed up on beaches in Mossel Bay, George, Knysna and Bitou this week.
The department’s spokesperson, Albi Modise, told Daily Maverick on Thursday that the department had dispatched a team to Mossel Bay.
“It was found that there were oil droplets that washed up in George, Knysna and Bitou beaches, and these are all currently being assessed. A team from the department is assisting with the training of clean-up teams. The source of the pollution is currently being assessed in order to put actions into place,” said Modise.
The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) said tar balls had reportedly washed ashore, affecting a significant stretch of the coastline from Mossel Bay to Wilderness since Monday.
“The source of the oil is unknown. However, officials are investigating where the oil originated from. Whilst there are no reports of oiled wildlife, Sanccob’s response team is on standby and is participating as part of the incident management team in the event of oiled seabirds being impacted,” said Sanccob.
Below are the beaches that are opened, those that are still being worked on and those that have not been worked on.
At this time of year, African penguin fledglings leave their colonies in the Eastern Cape and swim near where the oil droplets washed up, and Sanccob is particularly concerned that these birds could be affected.
“In addition, a high abundance of other seabirds and other marine biodiversity are at risk,” said Sanccob.
The Garden Route District Municipality on Thursday said that more than 100 trained individuals were cleaning up hydrocarbon and low-sulphur fuel oil droplets at more than 20 beaches along the Garden Route.
“Efforts have resulted in several beaches already moving to green status, which includes all the Blue Flag Beaches of Mossel Bay. While assessments found that several others in George, Hessequa, Knysna and Bitou were also affected by the spill, clean-up teams have already responded promptly to remove droplets,” said Gerhard Otto, the manager of disaster management at the Garden Route District Municipality.
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He assured holiday-makers and residents that the region was ready for its upcoming holiday season.
“The multi-agency response team indicated that most beaches will be cleaned by the end of this weekend, dependent on the 3.5m swells expected ...