x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Oil slick clearing off Fujairah coast

The slick is subsiding and swimmers can return to the water.

FUJAIRAH // An oil slick that was first spotted off the coast at the end of last week was slowly clearing yesterday.

Last Saturday and Sunday, the oil slick had reached some beaches off Fujairah, with some of the pollution lingering around underwater spots rich in marine life.

“You could smell it. It was awful,” said Jeffrey Catanja, a diving instructor who organises trips from the Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort in the emirate.

“It was very near Shark Island,” he said, explaining that the spot is popular with marine animals and divers.

But Iqbal Hossain, the dive master at the resort, said the spill was less prominent yesterday.

“People can now swim, there are very few [spots] there,” he said.

The main problem for swimmers is small pieces of tar that could stick to their feet, he said, adding that cooking oil and tissue paper could be used to remove the substance.

A few kilometres away, the waters around the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort were clear, an employee there said.

Small-scale incidents such as this one have been affecting the East Coast for years. Mr Catanja said he witnesses a spill once a month.

The pollution is caused by ships that clean their oil tanks and illegally dump the oily residue while at sea.Such waste should only to be discharged at specialised facilities, according to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, also known as Marpol.

The ships that dump the waste were also violating the Federal Environmental Law. The dumping usually occurs in international waters, at least 32km away from shore.

The pollution has caused some disruptions to hotel and dive operators in the area.

Its environmental impact over the long term has not been studied thoroughly, but it is known that oil spills can affect the breeding of some species of fish.

Fujairah Municipality could not be reached for a comment.

vtodorova@thenational.ae