DEC investigates sunken vessel fuel spill

The F/V Haida Lady, partially above the waterline near Sitka, on March 2. Coast Guard Sector Juneau personnel received a report that the vessel sank on Feb. 26. Coast Guard photo by MSD Sitka personnel

A fuel spill from a fishing vessel that sank near Eastern Channel of Sitka Sound, on Friday, Feb 26, with 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel and 55 gallons of hydraulic oil onboard, is under investigation by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

DEC officials said on Monday, March 1, that hard boom has been placed around the vessel and worksite, and absorbents have been applied and continue to be managed within the hard boom to collect any recoverable fuel oil.

The F/V Haida Lady was initially found port side down in 6-18 feet of water, but has since been repositioned so that fuel vents are above the waterline to prevent further discharge, DEC officials said.

The spill area includes Tongass National Forest and Haida lands. NOAA Fisheries scientific support provided a summary of resources at risk, including Western DPS Steller sea lions, and humpback whales, a threatened species. Harbor seals, killer whales and gray whales may also be present, as well as sea otters in moderate numbers.

Coast Guard officials have federalized the incident response and contracted Hanson Maritime Co. to mitigate the pollution impact from the vessel. Hanson will continue to work on stabilizing the vessel so that fuel and hydraulic oil removal can safely occur without increasing the risk of release, and oiled debris and fishing nets will be removed to prevent entanglement hazard for wildlife, DEC officials said.