Small oil slicks from a spill that pollutes Brazil’s northeastern coastline began to appear in a Brazilian marine park that houses one of the country’s largest sets of coral reefs.
The remains of the hydrocarbon were found on Santa Barbara Island, in the Abrolhos region, the Navy and Brazil’s leading environmental agency confirmed Saturday in a press release.
Santa Barbara is one of the five islands that make up the Abrolhos park on the southern coast of the state of Bahia – the last of the nine states to be affected by the spill – and is considered by the environmental agency as one of the richest sources of biodiversity in the Atlantic Ocean.
Brazilian authorities, concerned about the possible advance of crude oil over the protected area, have been monitoring the site for days with boats and divers.
On Friday, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police said they had identified a Greek-flagged ship belonging to a company of the same nationality as the source of the spill that has already affected nearly 300 beaches along 2,000 kilometers of coastline.
The police and the federal Public Ministry pointed to the oil tanker NM Bouboulina, of the Greek company Delta Tankers LTD., as responsible for the spill, according to a document from the prosecutors to which The Associated Press had access.
Delta, controlled by magnate Diamantis Diamantidis, denied being responsible for the spill.
Delta said it checked all cameras and sensors aboard its oil tanker Bouboulina and found no evidence of spills, the company said in an e-mail.
“This material will be shared voluntarily with the Brazilian authorities if they contact the company in connection with this investigation. So far, no such contact has been established,” the statement added.
El Bouboulina, a name referring to a Greek heroine from the War of Independence, docked in Venezuela on July 15 and left three days later loaded with crude destined for South Africa and Nigeria, according to Brazilian authorities.
They say the Bouboulina was sailing in Brazilian waters at the time and location of the spill. Brazilian prosecutors said there is “no indication of another ship” that could have unloaded Venezuelan crude at sea, according to the document seen Friday by the AP.
Successive rounds of U.S.-imposed trade sanctions made it illegal for U.S. companies to do business with the Venezuelan government. In August, President Donald Trump toughened his stance by warning foreign entities that they could have their assets frozen if they don’t cut ties with Caracas.
A number of European oil companies, such as Russia, India and China, are the main buyers of Venezuela’s state-owned crude oil company, PDVSA.
A laboratory study conducted by Petrobras had already identified that the oil came from three Venezuelan oil fields, but how it had reached the sea was unknown. Caracas has denied that the oil is from Venezuelan wells.
Authorities are still seeking to determine the cause of the spill, whether it was accidental or intentional, and to know the exact dimensions of the stain. The incident has already affected fishing and tourism, and authorities called it one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history.