Three Kings Islands – oil not visible in initial aerial photos

3 July 2019

Maritime NZ’s team is continuing to establish information about a small oil spill reported at Three Kings Islands.

Initial aerial photos taken by a NZ Defence Force Hercules aircraft on Tuesday over the island didn’t show any visible oil in the water or on the shore.

Maritime NZ Incident Controller Bruce Barton said that while no oil has been seen in the photos, further investigation was necessary. He said the response team will continue its efforts to identify any oil that might be in the area – its location, volume and potential impacts.

The forecast shows bad weather will continue at Three Kings Islands – located 55 kilometres northwest of Cape Reinga – for the next few days with winds up to 40 knots with a significant swell. This will make it difficult for boats and helicopters to reach the Islands.

Barton said that, due to the weather condition, natural wave action would likely disperse any oil. “In some ways, the bad weather is assisting our response and minimising the impact of any oil that might be in the area.”

On Monday, as soon as notification was received from a fishing vessel, activity began to try to determine the extent of the oil spill. The vessel advised it had seen oil on fishing gear and on a small number of sea birds in the immediate vicinity. Weather in the area was bad and communications with the vessel intermittent and of poor quality.

Barton said wildlife experts had advised that there is a limited number of species on the Islands. Mollymawks – also known as white-capped albatrosses – are known to inhabit the Islands, but not in the area where the spill was reported.

As the administrator for the islands, Department of Conservation is liaising with affected Iwi.

While further information is obtained, Maritime NZ continues to make preparations, including around oiled wildlife, for any possible response that may be required. An investigation continues to establish the origins of the spill.

Barton said he wanted to thank NZ Defence Force, Massey University’s Wildbase team and DOC for their assistance with the response. “It’s a team effort and we appreciate their input,” he said.

Map of Three Kings Islands
Photo credit: Maritime NZ
Map showing the location of the Three Kings Islands in relation to New Zealand
Photos of Three Kings Islands
Photo credit: NZDF
Aerial observation photos of Three Kings Islands taken by the Hercules’ crew

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