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Wildlife and oil in the Antarctic: A recipe for cold disaster

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 15:22 authored by Ruoppolo, V, Woehler, EJ, Morgan, K, Clumpner, CJ
The increasing rate of incidents involving vessels in the Southern Ocean (including vessels sinking) has highlighted the potential for substantial fuel spills into the Antarctic environment. An increasing number of tourist and fishing vessels, often without ice strengthened hulls, are penetrating farther into, and staying longer in, Antarctic waters, with a focus for destinations of wildlife concentrations. Based on a survey of national operators in the Antarctic, there is little preparation for an oil spill event that involves Antarctic wildlife. This is a recipe for a catastrophic spill event, with the potential for high numbers of oiled wildlife in a remote part of the world where there are major logistical constraints on the provision of equipment and skilled response personnel. Here we chronicle shipping incidents that have led to oil spills in the Southern Ocean, the current legislation and contingency plans currently in place by national Antarctic operators, and examine their preparedness and expertise for an oiled wildlife event response. It is clear that national, fishing and tourism operators are manifestly unprepared for an oiled wildlife event in the Southern Ocean. We identify five critical constraints to any response and provide recommendations that address these constraints.


Publication title

Polar Record








School of Natural Sciences


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

Cambridge, UK

Rights statement

Copyright 2012 Cambridge University Press

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Animal welfare

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