St Helena Online

Tag: lobster

How photo-blogger told America about island oil disaster

MS Oliva goes aground. Click the pic for more images, courtesy of http://www.tristandc.com

Photographer Andrew Evans arrived on the world’s most remote inhabited island just days after the bulk carrier MS Oliva was shipwrecked, creating an environmental disaster.

The ship releasing an oil slick that was to kill hundreds of endangered rockhopper penguins – and for a few days, it went unreported in the world’s media.

Evans had travelled to Tristan da Cunha in his role as National Geographic’s ‘digital nomad’, intending to capture the islanders’ way of life. Instead, he found himself witnesses the islanders’ response to a calamity.

Now National Geographic has released a video of him talking about how he broke the story of the MS Oliva.

“It was devasting,” he says. “Nobody in the world knew about this. This was an island that was completely disconnected. It’s off the grid.

“The first thing I did was take as many pictures as I could. I created a YouTube video and published it immediately from the ship. I put it out on Twitter [an internet messaging website] and it got picked up by the blogosphere.

“National Geographic got it out there in the real press, and it went to the New York Times.”

The lesson, says Evans, is that anyone with a camera and a web connection has the power to share news with the world.

In fact, Tristan is not as disconnected as he suggests. The story was also being relayed beyond the island on Tristan’s own website, which is published from the UK.

And unlike Evans, a Belgian witness had video footage of the crew actually being rescued by personnel from a passing cruise ship. However, Kanaal van KristineHannon’s shots did not appear on YouTube for another 11 days.

And efforts were being made to get the story in the UK media – but the oil spill happened in the same week as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The BBC was told about the story several times, but took days to get round to covering it.

The Today programme ran a live interview on the crisis on 22 March 2011 – the day Evans arrived on Tristan (and released a video in which he made no mention of the disaster).

SEE ALSO:
Tristan penguin rescuers triumph – maybe

LINKS:
National Geographic Live: Andrew Evans on reporting the Tristan oil spill
BBC Today programme report – 22 March 2011
Andrew Evans arrives on Tristan da Cunha – 22 March 2012
Nightingale Oil Spill – Andrew Evans’s original video,  24 March 2012
YouTube: MS Oliva runs aground – Kristine Hannon crew rescue footage, 27 March 2012

Tristan penguin rescuers triumph – maybe

MS Oliva goes aground. Click the pic for more images, courtesy of http://www.tristandc.com

Efforts by the people of Tristan da Cunha to rescue birds in last year’s oil spill disaster appear to have been a great success, against enormous odds.

A count appears to show little impact on breeding among the island’s endangered rockhopper penguin colonies after the MS Oliva broke up on rocks.

But oil and cargo released into the South Atlantic from the ship have severely damaged the lobster fishery that provides islanders’ main source of income.

Tristanians rescue crew from MS Oliva. Click the pic for more images. Courtesy of www.tristandc.com

Tristanians had to rescue crew members of the MS Oliva when it hit rocks off neighbouring Nightinghale Island on March 16.

They then set up their own clean-up operation for wildlife while they waited more than a week for help to arrive from Cape Town, 1,700 miles away by sea.

The ship broke up in rough weather, discharging 1,500 tonnes of bunker fuel into the sea. The resulting slick reached Tristan and Inaccessible Island, a World Heritage Site.

Now a report by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the breeding population of rockhopper penguins in the area has not suffered as much as anticipated.

But Dr Juliet Vickery, head of international research, says the figures should be treated with caution.

Venessa Strauss and Dereck Rogers washing oiled penguins. Picture courtesy of www.tristandc.com

Well over half of the world’s population of Northern Rockhopper penguins breed on the Tristan group of islands.

Approximately 154,000 of them bred on the islands in 2011, but estimates in the 1950s suggest there were ‘millions’ of birds, with two million pairs on Gough alone.

‘It’s a big relief that the initial results of the counts are better than we had anticipated,’ says Dr Vickery. ‘We should not, however, relax our watch. There is much we don’t know about this species.’

She says it is not known how well population trends can be worked out from counts in breeding colonies. There may be longer-term ‘sub-lethal’ effects on breeding.

‘It is vital that we continue to monitor the birds closely for several more years to establish the true impact of the oil spill.’

Makeshift penguin pens. Picture courtesy of www.tristandc.com

The oil spill has also caused concern for the important Rock Lobster fishery around Tristan – the mainstay of the island’s economy. The latest evidence shows that catches are way below normal and rotting soya has been spotted on the traps.

Divers found the wreck had broken up considerably over the Southern Hemisphere winter. The Nightingale fishery has closed on expert advice and the quota for the fishery at Inaccessible Island was reduced from 92 to 53 tonnes for 2011/12 season.

An RSPB emergency appeal raised almost £70,000, which will be used to support penguin monitoring, strengthen the islands’ biosecurity, and help Tristan control rats – which could spread to Nightinghale and kill chicks.

Katrine Herian. who works for the RSPB on Tristan, praised islanders for their work: ‘Something really needs to be said about the huge Tristanian efforts in response to this disaster.

‘Without them, this could have been a very different story. While the true impact of the spill won’t be known for some time yet, we can at least know that everything that could be done was done.’

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