Bits of oil from Brazil spill reach whale sanctuary

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Fragments of oil from spills plaguing Brazil's coast for three month have reached a humpback whale sanctuary, the navy reported Saturday.

The area around the small Abrolhos archipelago off the coast of northeast Bahia state has some of Brazil's richest biodiversity.

The oil was being recovered by navy ships, part of it in the water and other bits on the beach, the navy said in a statement.

Oil slicks have been appearing for three months off the coast of northeast Brazil and tarred more than 200 beaches along a 2,000 km (1,250 mile) area of Brazil's most celebrated shoreline.

Crews and volunteers have cleaned up tons of oil on the beaches.

Crude first showed up off Bahia in early October. The Abrolhos archipelago includes a national park and is known for biodiversity featuring rare coral formations, seabirds, and a breeding ground for humpback whales.

Officials say it not yet possible to quantify the environmental and economic damage from the oil slicks.

Environmentalists had feared the oil would reach the Abrolhos islands, and fishermen and volunteers have been standing guard, news reports said.

The government on Friday named a Greek-flagged tanker as the prime suspect for being the source of the oil slicks.

The ship Bouboulina took on oil in Venezuela and was headed for Singapore, it said.

The space agency Inpe said Friday there might still be oil at sea being pushed by currents and it could reach the states of Espiritu Santo and Rio de Janeiro in southeast Brazil.