Sea Shepherd Appeals to USCG for Help with Major Lebanese Oil Spill

Just last month, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauded Israel for their vote in defense of the whales at the recent International Whaling Commission meeting in St. Kitts and Nevis.

This month we have no choice but to condemn the Israeli attack on a Lebanese power plant on the coast of Lebanon that has resulted in up to 30,000 tons of oil spilled into the Mediterranean Sea.

Lebanon's Environment Ministry says the oil flooded into the sea when Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jiyyeh plant south of Beirut on July 13 and 15, creating an ecological crisis that Lebanon's government has neither the money nor the expertise to deal with.

"We have never seen a spill like this in the history of Lebanon. It is a major catastrophe," Environment Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf told Reuters. "The equipment we have is for minor spills. We use it once in a blue moon to clean a small spill of 50 tons or so. To clean this whole thing up we would need an armada ... The cost of a full clean-up could run as high as $40-50 million."

The spill is especially threatening since fish spawn and sea turtles nest on Lebanon's coast, including the green turtle which is endangered in the Mediterranean.

Carried by a north-easterly wind, the spill has traveled 100 km up the coast of Lebanon.

The Sea Shepherd Society also condemns Hezbollah for attacking an Israeli warship causing a large diesel spill into the sea. Both sides are inflicting ecological damage to sealife along the Lebanese coast and these attacks are ecologically irresponsible.

Even worst is that an Israeli sea and air blockade is preventing outside efforts to bring equipment into Lebanon to clean up the oil spill.

"To really clean it up we need access to the sea, which we don't have," Sarraf said. "We need more equipment and mobilization but for that we need the hostilities to end."

Even if Lebanon were able to clean up the spill which they cannot do, the marine ecosystem could take years to recover, local environmentalists say.

"July is hatching season for turtle eggs and baby turtles have to reach deep water as fast as possible to avoid predators. With the oil in their way, they will not survive," said Wael Hmaidan, a local environmental activis.

Sea Shepherd has appealed to the United States Coast Guard to send an oil spill clean-up team to Lebanon.

"The U.S. Coast Guard responded during the Jessica oil spill in the Galapagos in 2001," said Captain Paul Watson. "They have the capability of responding to this spill also and only the U.S. government can pass through the Israeli blockade."

In 2001, Sea Shepherd worked hand-in-hand with the United States Coast Guard to address the Jessica spill near San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. The USCG has the best trained and most professional oil spill responders in the world. They could intervene and the U.S. could pass through the Israeli blockade to address this massive ecological disaster.

There has been no answer from the U.S. Coast Guard so far. Reports are that the oil spill is a major disaster although it is being virtually ignored by the U.S. media.