MEXICO CITY – Fishermen on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast are spending much of their time lately cleaning up beaches in the wake of an Oct. 9 oil spill whose potential environmental impact remains unclear.
The Oct. 9 discharge was due to an “act of vandalism” against a pipeline at the maritime terminal in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca state, according to state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
Last month’s spill followed one caused by the magnitude-8.2 earthquake that struck southern Mexico on Sept. 7.
“We have never seen so much oil in the sea,” Raul Gallegos, president of the Costa del Marques Saltmakers Production Cooperative, told EFE.
The spill, which Gallegos said was roughly 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) long and 2 kilometers wide, posed a threat to the livelihoods of the fishermen of Salinas del Marques as well as the town’s tourism sector.
Salt production may also be at risk if the seawater that is the cooperative’s raw material remains contaminated.
To deal with the spill and make up for residents’ lost income, Pemex and the municipal government created temporary jobs cleaning up the beaches.
Working from 7 am to 4 pm, the cleaners use shovels to gather up globs of oil that are then placed in sacks.
At the moment, Gallegos says, most of the oil is at a layer 30 centimeters (nearly a foot) under the surface of the sand, but the traditionally rougher seas of December will leave those patches exposed.
His group is requesting that experts from the government and academia come to Salinas del Marques to evaluate the environmental damage.