A major world heritage-listed marine sanctuary in the Solomon Islands is under threat of destruction from an oil spill from a grounded cargo ship. And Australia is sending help to the Pacific nation, Australia's foreign minister announced Sunday March 3rd.
The oil spill is the result of at least 75 tonnes of heavy fuel oil spillage from the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Solomon Trader, which is still leaking out oil, since Cyclone Oma pushed the ship onto a reef at Rennell Island on February 5th.
There are fears that Rennell Island's habitat might be spoiled by the remaining fuel, since the bulk carrier was carrying 700 tonnes of oil when it ran aground.
Notably, Rennell Island is considered to be the world's largest raised coral reef, and home to many marine species found nowhere else.
"Australia remains extremely concerned by the ongoing risk of a major oil spill," stated foreign minister Marise Payne in a statement on Sunday, March 3rd.
"Up to 75 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the ship has dispersed across the Island's sea and shoreline, contaminating the ecologically delicate area. Given escalating ecological damage, and a lack of action by commercial entities involved, the Solomon Islands Government has requested Australia's assistance."
Australia was sending equipment, vessels, and experts under the leadership of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Payne also said.