Environment Southland's oil spill response team is on standby as police investigate reports of a boat having sunk off the west coast of Secretary Island at the mouth of Doubtful Sound in Fiordland.
Regional On Scene Commander Dallas Bradley said that he was liaising closely with the Police, who are coordinating the search and rescue operation. Their search and rescue personnel were watching out for oil slicks but the primary concern was to locate anyone who may have been on board. So far, there had been no reports of oil.
While the missing vessel's identity has yet to be confirmed by the Police, Mr Bradley said he was working on the assumption that it was a fishing boat with up to 5000 litres of diesel aboard. "Normally diesel will disperse naturally in rough seas, and the conditions yesterday were reported to be rough in the area where the boat may have sunk," Mr Bradley said. "From the environmental perspective, the windier and rougher the conditions, the better." Conditions were reported to have eased in the area today, with winds having eased to less than 20 km/hr.
Mr Bradley said he would be liaising with the Department of Conservation's wildlife experts about the threat that any diesel would pose. Secretary Island was understood to be a very sensitive area, where DOC had eradicated predators to make a sanctuary for endangered birds.
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