Argentina Might Limit Tourism to Antarctica


(Picture: Explorer cruise in Antarctica, via El Nuevo Dia newspaper) About a week ago, the cruise ship MS Explorer with Liberian flag sank in Antarctica leaving a diesel stain five kilometers of diameter. The cruise ship transported 100 travelers and 54 staff members that were rescued, and had 185 thousand liters of diesel and 1200 liters of gas oil. Now 1500 meters deep, until last Friday, authorities claimed the ship continued to spill fuel into the waters.

A few days later, concern started to raise in both Argentina and Chile, because specialists worried petrol may damage more than 2000 penguins who go through the place where the stain is every year to reach the Ardley island, where they have their reproduction process. Their journey to the island usually takes place this time of the year.

This unfortunate incident has finally drawn the attention of Argentine authorities about the impact of tourism to the delicate region of Antarctica and the National Environment Secretary, Romina Picolotti, has announced that the government might limit permissions for tourism to the area.

Via BBC in Spanish."This is a wake up call for tourism activity. We should not have a fuel stain floating (in Antarctica), so now we'll work in order to limit the tourist flow to the region, which doubled in the last years", declared Picolotti. According to her, this Argentine summer more than 30 thousand visitors are supposed to arrive to Antarctica.

"Antarctica's purpose is not tourist activity. We nations have to carry on a bigger effort to be more strict in these kinds of control (to tourism)", said the Secretary. She also announced the national government will start legal action against the cruise company that operated the ship for "environmental damage".

According to Picolotti, the stain is spreading to the open sea, which will favor its evaporation, since it is "light fuel".

Other authorities claim that even though the whole amount of fuel the ship transported has not been spilled yet, the corrosion the ship will suffer in deep sea may cause future complications, since it is 1500 meters deep now.

The ship sank 1200 kilometers south of Punta Arenas (Chile) and about 26 miles of 25 de Mayo Island (Antarctica).

::Original article BBC Spanish ::Terra article (in Spanish) ::La Nacion Chile article (in Spanish) ::El Nuevo Dia article (in Spanish)

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