Last week the biggest oil spill that the Swedish West coast has seen in about 20 years reached the island of Tjörn in the Bohuslän archipelago.
Of course this is one of the things that people of coastal areas fear most, whether you live in Louisiana or Skärhamn [map]. Now a frantic activity has started to gather the oil, save wildlife and nature.
In the beginning of this week more than 200.000 litres of oil had been removed (update: during the weekend, after one week of work, more than 460.000 litres of oil had been removed), but there can still be a lot left in the waters, and the experts working on the case say the clearing might have to go on until the end of this year. Oiled birds have been taken to the bird central in Gothenburg and other bird centrals are prepared in case of a rush.
At this point it’s not known where the oil spill comes from, but it’s believed it has to do with a collision between two boats outside the Danish coast about 10 days ago.
One slightly comforting detail of this terrible event is that it didn’t happen during springtime. In an article in the Gothenburg newspaper Göteborgs-Posten (article in Swedish), Sverker Evans at the brand new Swedish public authority for our waters and seas says that this oil would have been much worse for the sea would it have come when fish, birds and plants are in a growing phase.
Another factor is the water temperature. When the water is colder it takes longer for the oil to decompose naturally. Now the sea is at least a bit warmer after the summer.
It can nevertheless take years before all traces of the spill are gone. But it will eventually happen, says Sverker Evans. Eight years ago, there was a large oil spill outside the kust of Skåne in the South of Sweden. 40 km of the Swedish coast were affected and there were fears about long-term environmental consequences.
– Now you can’t see any of it, says Evans.
Update: Sweden’s first marine national park, Kosterhavet, might be threatened by the oil (Article in Miljöaktuellt. In Swedish, but can be translated through this page.)