The Office of the Maritime Regulator (OMR) and the Department of Ports and Marine (DPM) have ruled out allegation of oil spill or bilge found within the pilot station just few meters from the Port Vila Harbour.

A report was made to the DPM and OMR on Monday, 26 November by a resident of Pango Point about bilge or oil found along the beach of Paradise Cove and nearby residents. Pictures were also posted in the social media (Yu Save Se/Facebook) about this allegation.

OMR and DPM, the responsible maritime authorities, deployed its inspectors and officers to investigate the oil spill allegation on the same day. The pilot boat searches the sea of Pango point and towards Devil’s point and Mele Bay, while other officers do land and shore patrol along the coastal beaches of Paradise Cove, Light house at Pango, Erakor and Black Sand area to substantiate allegation reported to OMR and DPM.

On arrival on the alleged contaminated sites, OMR and DPM officers took water samples from the beaches. Based on initial assessment, no dead marine species found along the coastlines.

Further, there is no smell of fuels or lubricant from oil can be found from the sample taken as well. The colour of the alleged bilge is light brown. No smell of fuel or oil as well. The water was tested and it was confirmed that the reported substance found floating along the coastline of Paradise Cove and within the open sea of Pango point and Devil point is not oil or bilge as allege.

The OMR and DPM confirmed that the brownish colour substance is a natural marine process that looks muddy and silk.

Its scientific name is Trichodesmium or sea sawdust which often mistakenly with oil. According to information obtain from the internet, trichodesmium occurs in tropical waters.

Trichodesmium is often present in the water column of tropical ocean waters, especially during the warmer months, and becomes readily apparent visually (and on the nose) during calm periods when it floats on the surface, collecting in wind rows or slicks, until it rots and disperses. It is most often encountered by anglers on calm days out on the briny, but can wash into estuaries and onto beaches, often mistaken for an oil slick as it pushes onto the beach or foreshore.

Coastal residents of Bukura, Devil’s point, Pango Cove and Mele will see this sea sawdust will appear on their coast and in the event that dead marine species seeing floating or strong presence of oil, then urgent report need to be made to OMR, DPM and Department of Environment for further investigation. In the meantime, the investigation for this issue rule out any oil or bilge as initially reported.

The last time Trichodesmium appears in Vanuatu waters was between Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

This year it was reported to appear in Aneityum, Malekula and now Efate, Port Vila. Residents were advised not to worry about this natural marine causes as it will slowly rot and will disperse.

However, OMR encourage coastal residents or any person to continue to report any marine spill or suspicious substances to OMR and DPM or Department of Environment for investigation.

The OMR and DPM acknowledged the resident for reporting this matter to OMR and DPM.

This shows that protecting our marine environment is everyone’s business. If you see any suspicious substance or oil or bilge pump into the waters, please call OMR on short code free line 114 or 35445 and report the matter for proper action and investigation.

For more information about trichodesmium (https://www.ryanmoodyfishing.com/trichodesmium- blooms-are-often-confused-with-coral- spawn/?fbclid=IwAR2VHylsCezZWyJiBk5k4Lg0BFWonFRZ1sJ46MDthdwAKIoSszltzwk-tRk)

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