First report of seabirds and turtles affected by Great Barrier Reef mystery spill

A spill of unknown origin was reported off of Queensland, Australia on 17 July 2015 but no reports of impacts on wildlife were confirmed until 30 July. Two flatback turtles and two brown boobies were the first oiled wildlife to be brought in. Oil has reached beaches near Ingham and and on Hinchinbrook and Palm Islands.

Scientists report that one flatback turtle, a marine species that nests on Australian beaches, was recovered dead but did not die from oil exposure. The turtle likely died before the oil spill. One of the boobies died in care but the other booby and the juvenile turtle in care are reported to be recovering.

Tests have been done on the recovered oil to try to match it with oil from ships known to have passed through the area around the time the spill was reported. Of the 17 known ships, samples from 12 are being tested.

A number of beaches in the area have reopened and Great Barrier Marine Park Authority staff continue to evaluate other reefs in the region for any oil impacts on other marine life within the park after finding some oil in the fringing reefs of the Palm Islands near Townsend.



Queensland oil spill: Turtles, seabirds found slicked near Townsville. Brisbane Times. Accessed online 3.8.2015
Seabird dies from north Queensland oil spill. The Mercury News. Accessed online 3.8.2015