By Pablo Fernández Cermeño
Ancón, Peru, Jan 14 (EFE).- A stretch of beaches to the north of Peru’s capital Lima remain closed off to the public while the local fishing port is functioning at half throttle due to a drop in fish numbers a year after a crude oil spill from a refinery operated by Spanish company Repsol.
The spill on January 15, 2022, sent 11,900 barrels of oil into the waters of the coast of Ancón and the effects are still felt to this day.
“Beaches closed. Highly contaminated due to the presence of oil in the sea and sand,” a warning sign reads.
Nearby, a team of workers from a company that specializes in industrial waste and biocontamination use hoes to clean the sand.
“Repsol will say ‘no, the sea is fine,’ but every time you go out in the water, catch a fish, and cook it, you can taste oil,” 27-year-old Simón, who has fished from the local dock since he was 15, tells Efe. Since the spill, he has been forced to spend weeks away from home fishing in more distant waters.
Dozens of other local fishers are in the same situation.
“I used to fish during the day, arrive at night, I was able to sleep at night, have dinner with my children or go for a walk. Not anymore,” Simón adds.
His daily life was turned upside down on January 15, 2022 when the Mare Doricum tanker spilled nearly 12,000 barrels of crude oil into the sea, according to figures published by Peru’s environment ministry.
Older fishermen and local line fishermen, who fished from dry land, have had to turn to other jobs to make money.
The lack of work is palpable from the Ancón boardwalk, where dozens of small boats wait moored and idle.
Isabelita, owner of a small restaurant on Ancón’s dock, says Repsol “ruined their lives” and that they are now forced to work just to put food on their table.
“We are in a state of disgrace, my friend. Now look at the stalls, all empty,” she tells Efe, adding that their only customers now are deep-sea fishermen. “Last year, the beaches had just opened after Covid. In the first week of January there were already a lot of people. Now, the oil came and they closed the beach again.”
Ancón officials tell Efe that all the beaches remain closed to bathing out of caution and due to an administrative contradiction.
Peru’s General Directorate of Environmental Health (Digesa) says that three of the beaches are open despite not saying they are fit for bathing. Those same beaches still lack a certificate of health from the Agency for Environmental Evaluation and Control (OEFA).
Repsol’s director of communications Luis Vásquez told Efe that studies carried out by the oil company showed the beaches and the sea were “free of hydrocarbons.”
“We have the technical evidence (…) with a sampling from October where all the results are satisfactory for the potential return of fishing activities and commercial activities,” Vásquez said, calling for an updated report from the OEFA on the marine situation to put an end to administrative uncertainty.
This lack of certainty over the state of the marine environment has cost the local community over $9 million due to drop in fishing, tourism and other economic activities, according to Ancón’s mayor Samuel Daza.
He has called on Repsol to compensate Ancón locals and urged residents to stage a sit-in on the local beach on the anniversary of the spill..EFE