2,660 fishermen to seek aid after leak

2,660 fishermen to seek aid after leak

A Pollution Control Department official works to clean up the oil spill that washed ashore along a stretch of Rayong’s Mae Ramphueng beach on Saturday. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A Pollution Control Department official works to clean up the oil spill that washed ashore along a stretch of Rayong’s Mae Ramphueng beach on Saturday. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Over 2,600 fishermen in Rayong have been affected by the oil spill from the underwater pipeline owned by Star Petroleum Refining PCL (SPRC), which leaked over 50,000 litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Thailand, the province's Fisheries Office said on Thursday.

Rayong's Fisheries Office chief, Seri Ruanla, said in total 2,660 fishermen have been adversely affected by the incident, with most surveyed saying fish stocks in the area were severely hit, while the rest of their catch was unsellable.

While the Navy said oil slicks in the area have been cleaned up, Mr Seri said many fishermen haven't been able to make a living since the incident, as their regular catches have mostly disappeared from their usual fishing grounds off the Rayong coast.

He said many have been forced to go further out to sea or cease fishing completely.

Concerns about contaminated seafood have also driven consumers away from seafood caught in Rayong, even if it is safe to eat as it was caught far away from the affected areas, he said.

"Right now, the Fisheries Office is tallying the total number of affected fishermen to prepare a relief action plan that will be submitted to the governor," he said.

Department of Marine and Coastal Resources director-general Sopon Thongdee said yesterday the department had sent three teams to patrol the entire Rayong coastline, and they reported that they did not find any oil slicks in the area.

The Navy and Rayong Provincial Authority will set up a tripartite committee, comprising government agencies, tourism businesses, and environmental organisations, to re-examine the situation both at Mae Ramphueng beach and in the Gulf.

Separately at a parliamentary session yesterday, Kao Klai Party MP Benja Saengchan questioned the prime minister, minister of natural resources and environment, and industry minister over the government's handling of the oil spill.

She accused the government of protecting the SPRC's interests over the public's, by downplaying the severity of the incident.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa slammed claims that the government was trying to protect the company, saying the Pollution Control Department is now preparing to file a lawsuit against those responsible for the slick.

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