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Unalaska Cleans Up Fish Oil Spill

David Tonon/U.S. Coast Guard

A forklift punctured a connex filled with fish oil in Unalaska Thursday, spilling it across a shipyard. Fish oil is considered an environmental hazard, but far less damaging than crude oil. Some of the bright orange oil flowed into a storm drain and into the ocean. Resolve Marine stopped it from spreading more by plugging the drain with gravel and dirt.

A couple hundred gallons of the 5,700 gallon bladder made it into the ocean. But U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Andres Ayure says because fish oil is biodegradable, it’s not too hard on the environment.

“Technically, in large quantities it could be seen as a marine pollutant. But in the quantities that we saw and with the weather we had, it will disperse, emulsify very quickly, and not harm the environment,” said Ayure.

Calm seas made it easier to contain and clean up the fish oil. If it had not spilled, the fish oil would have been shipped off the island and processed into products like fish oil supplements.

Shipping company Matson is responsible for the spill and for the cleanup, which Ayure says can be costly. The Coast Guard is also putting together a report on the incident and Matson could face fines and further penalties.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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