Where’s the Fishing?

Apparently, off southern South America, it’s just outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Chile.

Here’s another nighttime DMSP satellite image composite from our friends at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center (as always, click to see a bigger version). We’ve planted it in Google Earth. It was made by combining three years worth of cloud-free nighttime satellite images, with 2011 displayed in red, 2010 in green and 2009 in blue. Look at the patterns of color out in the ocean, massed against Chile’s EEZ boundary, shown as a green line:

These patterns are probably made by the lights of fishing vessels: cargo ships are in a hurry to get from Port A to Port B, and don’t linger in the open ocean.  There are a variety of fishing restrictions within Chilean waters designed to protect local fishing and fisheries by limiting industrial fishing, but on the high seas beyond the EEZ boundary anything goes.  The fishing within Chile’s territorial waters must be relatively good, because this map shows that fishing vessels are trying to get as close as possible without crossing the line — although if you look closely, you can see indications of repeated incursions into Chilean waters.

Based on a study of Chilean fisheries, we think much of the fishing effort revealed on this image is probably targeting swordfish.

Bilge Dumping off Vietnam – February 22, 2012

We’ve posted about bilge dumping before – the practice of flushing the oily slop out of your vessel, straight into the ocean.  It’s illegal in a lot of places, but it is very hard to enforce.  SkyTruth’s daily offshore monitoring program just caught this fine (awful?) example of bilge dumping off the coast of Vietnam, in a major north-south shipping lane about 115 miles offshore:

Envisat ASAR satellite radar image off Vietnam, February 22, 2012. Image courtesy European Space Agency.

Zooming in on those black streaks, and turning the image west-up, here’s a closer look at this mess:

Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

More images and analysis after the jump….

The slick at bottom left is 30 miles long. Assuming the oil is only one micron thick – that’s probably way too conservative – we calculate this slick holds at least 16,600 gallons of oily gunk:

Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

Busted!  Sort of.  Following the visible stern wake, we come to a vessel 30 miles away, the likely perpetrator for this particular slick:

Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

If anybody has access to AIS (automated identification system) data, they can probably ID this vessel for us.  It’s location is  12.820307° N / 111.724137° E, heading 33°, time 02:37:19 UTC on February 22, 2012.  Go get ’em!

Oil Pollution off Nigeria – Other Sources?

After flying journalists over the remnants of the Bonga FPSO oil spill off Nigeria,Shell pointed out that they are not the only polluters in this part of the world, and will clean up another small spill in the area not related to any of their operations.

That certainly doesn’t excuse their (much larger) mess but they are correct:  satellite images of the west coast of Africa, like some other coastal regions around the world, routinely show signs of oil pollution from other sources, especially bilge-dumping by vessels large and small. We don’t know if it’s legal in this area; it is not legal in US or Canadian waters. Radar satellite imagery is an excellent tool for detecting bilge-dumping.

This Envisat ASAR image taken on December 18, 2011 shows a 100-mile-long slick caused by bilge dumping from a large vessel that was traveling toward the southeast on a course taking it very close to the Bonga FPSO (we’ve inferred the location of the FPSO from multiple radar satellite images; if anyone has the exact lat/lon coordinates please pass them along to us):

Envisat ASAR image taken December 18, 2011 showing oily bilge dump from a passing vessel northwest of the Bonga oil field off Nigeria. Image courtesy European Space Agency.

At 1 micron thick this bilge slick holds about 80,000 gallons of oily material.  Projecting the vessel track back to the northwest, we land near the city of Aneho on the Togo coast. There is an industrial facility in the area that appears to have an offshore loading system.  It could be the point of origin for the suspect vessel, but we really have no way of knowing:

Projecting backward along bilge slick to shore. Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

Here’s what it looks like in Google MapsDoes anyone have any information about this facility?