France hit by Prestige disaster

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

France, after Spain, is now facing an ecological disaster with oil pollution from the tanker Prestige, which broke-up off Galicia last year. Frederic Jeammes reports on the shocking advice Spanish fishermen are giving their French colleagues.

"It's a monster with a capital M, and I advise you not to waste time," warns Julio Alonso, representative of the fishermen in Vigo, a port city in Spain's Galicia region that was hit hard by the Prestige disaster.

"Today, the enemy is in France, and you must launch your attack as far from the coast as possible," Alonso notes as, on a screen, dramatic images of Spanish fishermen cleaning up the oil spewing from the wrecked Liberian-registered tanker flash by.

Alonso has come to the southwestern port of Arcachon, a major oyster-producing town where the collection and sale of shellfish has been banned since the beginning of January, to help French fishermen learn to combat the oil slick.

 
Some 200 kilometers (125 miles) of France's Atlantic beaches, from the Spanish border halfway up the coast to the port city of La Rochelle, have been polluted by oil.

The ship, which sank off northwest Spain on November 19, has released some 20,000 tonnes of oil, blighting Spain's Galicia and Asturias regions as well as northern Portugal before being pushed north towards France.

The films screened in Arcachon for stunned fishermen and officials reveal Spanish boats coated in oil and men entirely covered in the thick sludge from head to toe as they battled the black tide.

"We're not facing this kind of situation just yet," says vice-admiral Jacques Gheerbrant, who serves as France's maritime prefect for the Atlantic coast, trying to assuage the fishermen's fears.

 
Hundreds of oyster farmers who work in and near the Bassin d'Arcachon are facing economic ruin due to the shellfish ban in the inlet, and have demanded compensation from local and regional authorities.

But Alonso urges them to spend more time on clean-up efforts and worry about compensation later, explaining several methods used in Spain to contain the oil slicks before they reached land.

He specifically recommends use of the "colombino", a simple two-meter (6.5-foot) wide hoop net operated by a trawler's crane that works like a digger to scoop up globs of oil.

But despite Alonso's best efforts to motivate the fishermen at the conference centre in Arcachon, they seemed resigned to a long uphill battle, and appear unsure that they could make use of the methods he proposed.

from the coast as possible," Alonso notes as, on a screen, dramatic images of Spanish fishermen cleaning up the oil spewing from the wrecked Liberian-registered tanker flash by.

Alonso has come to the southwestern port of Arcachon, a major oyster-producing town where the collection and sale of shellfish has been banned since the beginning of January, to help French fishermen learn to combat the oil slick.

 
Some 200 kilometers (125 miles) of France's Atlantic beaches, from the Spanish border halfway up the coast to the port city of La Rochelle, have been polluted by oil.

The ship, which sank off northwest Spain on November 19, has released some 20,000 tonnes of oil, blighting Spain's Galicia and Asturias regions as well as northern Portugal before being pushed north towards France.

The films screened in Arcachon for stunned fishermen and officials reveal Spanish boats coated in oil and men entirely covered in the thick sludge from head to toe as they battled the black tide.

"We're not facing this kind of situation just yet," says vice-admiral Jacques Gheerbrant, who serves as France's maritime prefect for the Atlantic coast, trying to assuage the fishermen's fears.

 
Hundreds of oyster farmers who work in and near the Bassin d'Arcachon are facing economic ruin due to the shellfish ban in the inlet, and have demanded compensation from local and regional authorities.

But Alonso urges them to spend more time on clean-up efforts and worry about compensation later, explaining several methods used in Spain to contain the oil slicks before they reached land.

He specifically recommends use of the "colombino", a simple two-meter (6.5-foot) wide hoop net operated by a trawler's crane that works like a digger to scoop up globs of oil.

But despite Alonso's best efforts to motivate the fishermen at the conference centre in Arcachon, they seemed resigned to a long uphill battle, and appear unsure that they could make use of the methods he proposed.

0 Comments To This Article