Byline: Shane Scott
VENTURA — Although Ventura Harbor has returned to its normal color, off the 1400 block of Spinnaker Drive, the water was a gooey red for days after two vessels collided, releasing more than 300 gallons of diesel fuel into the harbor.
At 1 p.m. Nov. 18, the purse seiner Royal Pacific reportedly suffered a ruptured fuel tank when it collided with it the shrimp boat Golden Eagle, secured off a Ventura Harbor boatyard. Royal Pacific, which was carrying 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, reportedly leaked between 300 and 500 gallons of diesel before Ventura Harbor Patrol staff members could deploy a containment boom and surround the vessel.
Several agencies, including city and county fire departments, the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol, along with staff from Patriot Environmental and Clean Seas, were on the scene, soaking the diesel into pads, and cleaning rocks and structures tainted by the fuel spill.
“Patriot Environmental came down and spent days cleaning up the area, and cleaning up the rocks and removing the diesel,” said Senior Harbor Patrol Officer Pat Hummer.
“The good thing is that it happened in kind of a corner of the harbor,” Hummer said. “The west winds typically blow to that corner, so it was fairly easy to contain the spill. It made it easier for the agencies to remove.”
While no human injuries were reported, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) personnel were called in to care for marine life affected by the spill.
“We ended up with a fishery closure, because there was more than 42 gallons of fuel in the water,” said Alexia Retallack, manager of the DFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
“We’ve had to assess whether it’s safe to continue to fish in the area,” Retallack said. “We need to ensure that this is a place that people can pull fish and mussels out of the local water and be safe.”
The process, which involves catching and analyzing both fish and mussels for contamination levels, is ongoing, Retallack said.
Since oil floats, the most affected ocean life was near the surface. Three birds were captured and cleaned by volunteers from the University of California, Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, Retallack said. The ducks were taken to San Pedro, where they are currently being rehabilitated before their release back into the wild.