Cousteau to Film Documentary of Spanish Oil Spill

SANTA BARBARA, California, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - An Ocean Futures Society film team, led by Jean-Michel Cousteau, will travel this holiday season to Spain's Galician coast, where most of the oil spilled by the tanker "Prestige" in November has come ashore. The tanker, now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, continues to leak tons of heavy fuel oil.

The film team, which will be in Spain from December 26 to 30, will focus its documentary visit on the town of La Coruna, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Santiago de Compostela on the Galician coast. The town is near the center of the massive oil spill.

To document the effects of the oil, the team will meet with local residents, fishermen and environmentalists living and working in the area. Personal accounts of the lesser known, devastating long term economic and social effects of the spill damage on their communities will be examined.


(Photo courtesy Miami University)
"My experience filming the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez tragedy has made me sensitive to the plight of the Spanish people, who now face tremendous social dislocation and economic upheaval for years to come," says Jean-Michel Cousteau.

"The news media has initially focused on the immediate effects we see on television - wildlife by the millions killed or harmed, spoiled beaches and thousands of volunteers endlessly clearing away heavy, oil soaked sand. This news then quickly fades away, out of sight and of mind," Cousteau said.

"There is a need to tell another side of the story, which is something insidious, invisible and continuous for years to come," said Cousteau. "We need to look at the breakdown of the symbiotic human and natural interaction, the loss of economic livelihood, the enormous stress on families and the unraveling fabric of their societies."


This woman once harvested clams where the soldiers are working to clean the beach of oil from the "Prestige." (Photo courtesy )
Ocean Futures Society, based in Santa Barbara, California, and Paris, France, will document these effects on film to record the region's plight as a human narrative of the repercussions if governments around the world do not take swift and forceful action to remove aging and obsolete tankers from the oceans.

"All of us on the Ocean Futures team see this important work as a way to develop educational tools for global distribution," Cousteau said.

Owned by the Bahamian company Mare Shipping Inc., and flying a Bahamian flag, the 26 year old single hull tanker was operated by Universe Maritime Ltd. of Greece. The 243.5 meter (799 foot) long vessel was headed from Latvia to Gibraltar and then to Singapore when it encountered a storm November 13.

The vessel initially spilled at least 4,000 of the 77,000 metric tons of oil which washed up as sludge on the environmentally fragile Galician coast. Since it sank November 19, thousands more tons of the heavy fuel oil have spilled from the wreck at the bottom of the sea.

Five holes leaking oil from the tanker were plugged Sunday by a French research submarine, the Spanish government. But Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the submarine "Nautile" found new cracks in the hull of the "Prestige."

Strong winds were pushing an oil slick from the sunken wreck far enough from land to offer hope that an end is in sight to the massive slick.

"Our intention is to use this film to keep pressure on governments and industries to act responsibly. When proper management of ocean going transportation is strictly enforced, we can protect the very societies that rely on the health of the oceans. Protect the ocean and you protect yourself."


Tanker "Prestige" struggling to stay afloat in November (Photo courtesy Xunta)
The European Commission decided Friday that no single hull tankers will be allowed to carry heavy fuel oil in the European Union. The proposal must now be adopted by the Council and Parliament.

In addition, all single hull oil tankers aged more than 23 years will be immediately banned from the waters of the European Union. The elimination of more modern ones will take place earlier, between 2005 and 2010, according to a more stricter calendar than provided for by current rules.

The mission of Ocean Futures Society is to explore the global ocean, inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, said Cousteau, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean's vital importance to the survival of all life on Earth.