Bonga oil spill: ERA/FoE findings

04 January 2012, Sweetcrude, BRASS –  Following an alert from fisher folks in Odioma community on the discovery of oil slick suspected to be from Shell’s Bonga Field, ERA/FoE monitors visited the Atlantic shoreline in the company of some of the fishermen where the spill was sighted spreading far and wide.

Odioama, a Nembe-speaking Ijaw community is on the fringes of the Atlantic Ocean in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and its people have a large number of fisher folks who derive their livelihood from the Atlantic Ocean.

Areas visited by ERA/FoEN monitors in the company of three community folks – Elder James Sampson aka Ovie Kokori, Danyo Ogoniba and Ayeomane Ayela, included Fish Camp 2 opposite the Varnish Island and St. Nicholas. In the course of the visit, spreading slick was observed close to the coastline of Odioama and along St. Nicholas. More quantity was observed spread out at the Varnish Island.

Fishermen testimonies
Lucky Tema:

“I have been in this fishing camp here in Odioama for about 12 years now. I am an Ilaje man and fishing is my main occupation; that’s what I do here. As you can see I am just returning from the ocean. If you go into the ocean you will find the thick slick of crude oil floating, tossed here and there by the waves. It is spreading according to the direction of the current. That is what we are seeing even right here at the waterside on St. Nicholas.

“As a fisherman, one of the things I know about this crude oil is that, apart from killing aquatic life, it chases away the fishes that used to be around. If our nets get in contact with the crude oil it will stain the nets and, because of the smell and colour, fish will notice and avoid such nets in the water. You can see the little catch that I returned with. This is not how it used to be. Our efforts are yielding far below expectation these days.”

Ayeomane AyelaActually we started noticing this crude oil on the Atlantic a week ago. But it came ashore about two days ago. Oil spills affect our fishing and, this one is not an exception. We used to catch enough fish before but it is difficult now. I go into the ocean almost every day and, since we began experiencing this spill we have been unhappy.

“If you had come when we had full tide, you would have noticed the crude oil slick all around the waterside. Now the water has ebbed, though you can still see signs of crude oil at the water front.

“We are not happy because it takes extra effort to avoid the slick from contaminating our fishing nets. Once your net has stains of crude oil fishes will run away from the net because they will see it. As you can see we are powerless; we cannot order the government on what to do.

“But I think a responsible government should be able to appreciate our plight and assist us. Because of this kind of situation we are becoming debtors as we hardly even meet up the payment of the fuel we use for our ocean-going boats. We want Shell to clean up the spill and compensate us for loss of livelihood. Our business has been impacted. Bonga fish that used to come to the surface are no more. The company should not deny us of our Bonga with their Bonga Facility.

In the course of the field visit, ERA/FoEN noticed the spread of the spill continued to Fish Camp 2, behind the community and by the entrance of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas joins the Atlantic Ocean from this point. However, even before visiting Fish Camp 2, the surface of the river showed signs of the slick sheen everywhere. Apart from what was observed in the Ocean, crude oil slick was noticed coming into St. Nicholas.

Daily Updates
December 26
Our field monitors have confirmed that the Shell Bonga Field oil spill is presently in the waters of Odioma Kingdom and it has also reached River Ramos near Warri, Delta State. There also appears to be another Shell unreported oil spill that has been on for about two weeks now at Otumara in Escravos in Ugborodo area of Delta State. As we investigate, we will update you once we get more details.

December 24
Through our contacts we received information that the deep sea fishing folks from Odioma Kingdom. A Nembe speaking Ijaw settlements on the fringes of the Atlantic Ocean in Brass Local Government Area, Bayelsa State sensed a pungent smell of crude of crude yesterday. New information(today 24, Dec. 2011)to ERA indicates that some of the fishing folks have seen thick crude oil slick, about 2km to the shores/coastline this evening. These folks also have reported that some of their fishing nets are clogged with crude.

December 23
The reported spotting of crude oil by fishermen in Inanga location within Qua Iboe oil field, believed to have leaked from Shell’s Bonga Oil Field, opens a new chapter in the catalogues of environmental impacts wrought by the oil industry in the Niger Delta.

Shell had on Wednesday (21 December 2011) announced that some 40,000 barrels of crude had leaked into the Atlantic Ocean from its Bonga Deep Offshore Oil Fields and subsequently shut down the facility. The spill is said to have occurred while a vessel was being loaded with crude oil.

While the fishermen in the Qua Iboe area were pondering over their findings on Friday 23 December 2011, at a meeting it hastily organized for community folks in Warri, Delta State, same day, Shell was peddling new figures. This time, its officials disclosed that 50,000 barrels of crude oil had actually spewed from the Bonga Field.

While Shell is still busy trying to convince the world that the spill had naturally thinned out due to chemicals and dispersants it deployed, the alert of the fishermen during a fishing expedition near Inanga location within the Qua Iboe oil fields, is a cause of worry. Unconfirmed report of unusual quantity of oil sheen discovered by another set of fishermen at the eastern Obolo Beach in Ikot Abasi is no less worrying.

Chairman, Akwa Ibom chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria, Samuel Ayadi, said: “We saw the oil at Inanga and initially thought it came from Mobil because Inanga Oil Platform belongs to them, but we later heard of the incident in Shell, so we assumed it is coming from there… This news is a sad blow to fishermen because we are just beginning to recover from the impacts of previous spills before this one took us back to square one.’’.

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  • Egbuson Premobowei J.

    A sustainable measure should be adopted to clean up the crude oil spill in a sustainable way. Young men and women in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria should be trained on how to manage crude oil spillage sustainably. Lastly, the people in Odioama and other affected communities in brass Local Government Area should please be adequatly compensated.

  • Good questions, Alastair. I would say that your #1 and #3 are the most kleily scenarios. To some degree, the available oilsands product will displace existing refinery feedstock, and so production of refined products will go where they are going now (some exports, some domestic). Since oilsands would only have one other market (US Midwest) with temporarily depressed prices, there is the potential that Gulf Coast refiners get a lower-cost feedstock than they are getting right now, making additional runs economic, and so you see more production of refined products, therefore more exports of refined products. US isn’t exporting upgraded (Synthetic Crude) oil, they are exporting more refined products, primarily diesel.