Sunday 21 October 2018

Sixteen kilometre stretch of southern French coast hit by oil spill.

A sixteen kilometre stretch of the southern French coast, centred on the resort of Saint-Tropez, has been closed to visitors due to oil washing ashore. Oil began to wash up around Saint-Tropez on Thursday 18 October 2018, and by Sunday 21 had reached beaches around Hyeres. The oil is thought to have come from the Virginia, a Greek-registered tanker which was in a collision with a freighter off the coast of Corsica on Saturday 6 October, and is thought to have lost about 600 tonnes of bunker oil (oil used to fuel the tanker, rather than cargo) into the Mediterranean.

Clean-up operation at Pampelone beach in Ramatuelle, in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez on Thursday 18 October 2018. Christophe Simon/AFP.

Oil spills are potentially harmful to marine life in a variety of ways. Most obviously it can coat the outside of organisms, causing damage to external structures such as the feathers of Birds and fur of Mammals, as well as smothering many marine invertebrates and plants. It also contains a variety of chemicals which can be directly toxic upset the hormonal balance of many animals. Oil also impedes the feeding of marine organisms, coating both food and feeding organs, but provides an excellent food source for Bacteria, which can lead to Eutrophication events - dramatic increases in Bacteria numbers, which then use all the oxygen in the water, leading other organisms to asphyxiate.

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