Aleutian Isle Sinking
Washington Dept. of Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard, San Juan Office of Emergency Management and Swinomish Tribe have formed a Unified Command to collectively respond to a sunken 58-foot fishing vessel, the Aleutian Isle, on the west side of San Juan Island near Sunset Point. This incident started as a search and rescue, and all persons on board were rescued safely. The vessel sank soon after.
For more pictures and video from this response, visit the Dept. of Ecology Flickr album.
Sunset Point, San Juan Island(map)
Response vessels off San Juan Island.
Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022 6:00 p.m.
Unified Command has declared the vessel no longer poses a significant threat to the environment. Crews continue work to prepare the vessel and barge for transit to a mainland facility.
Air quality monitors are being demobilized.
Although the vessel was removed from the water, responders will still monitor for any residual fuel that could impact the shoreline or wildlife. Wildlife experts and shoreline assessment teams will be surveying the area, looking for potential oil impacts for the next several days.
If anyone sees uncontained sheening, please call the National Response Center at: 800-424-8802. If you encounter oiled wildlife, please contact 800-22-BIRDS.
For more on this response, read UPDATE #11.
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022 8:00 p.m.
Today crews were able to completely dewater the Aleutian Isle and lift it onto a barge anchored in Mitchell Bay after 40 days in the water. The work area was completely surrounded by boom, and as anticipated, there was some light sheening.
Some of that sheen did escape beyond the boomed area, but was too light to be recovered. Whale deterrence teams were on standby during the operations, however, no whales came into the incident area.
In the coming days, crews will continue to remove petroleum products and other hazardous material and fully secure the vessel to the barge in preparation for transit to a shipyard for survey.
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022 -- 6:00 p.m.
The Aleutian Isle was safely, and uneventfully transported to Mitchell Bay yesterday afternoon. After the crane barge was secured, crews were able to remove 300 gallons of oily-water mix before operations ended for the day.
A new safety zone was established around the new work area with a 150-yard radius that is in place until Sept. 26.
Today, operations continued to remove trapped fuel and water. Crews also began re-rigging the vessel in preparation to lift it onto a barge in the next day or two where it will be transported to an on-shore facility. Wildlife crews are continuing bird deterrence efforts and assessing areas for any wildlife impacts. The whale deterrence team remains on standby in case killer whale deterrence is necessary.
Monday, Sept. 19, 2022 -- 1:00 p.m.
Crews successfully connected the Aleutian Isle to the side of the barge in anticipation of transporting it this afternoon. The vessel is partially floating and supported by the barge crane. Operations will move to shallower water in Mitchell Bay where it will be easier to completely defuel, dewater and re-rig the Aleutian Isle in preparation to be lifted onto a barge. The depth of the area allows divers to work longer and safer. The area also allows all the operations to be surrounded by boom to reduce the risk of sheen moving away.
Wildlife response crews did take deterrent action on two transient killer whales when they were close to the operations area yesterday evening at Lime Kiln.
Those crews used oikomi pipes to move the whales out of the area and stayed with the whales until they were beyond the incident area. Deterrence teams remain onsite and on standby during operations to deter any whales in the vicinity of the response.
Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022 -- 8:00 p.m.
Crews have been able to partially dewater the vessel and remove approximately 775 gallons of oily-water mixture. However, they were unable to safely access all spaces to completely dewater the vessel. The Aleutian Isle needs to meet a certain weight to be moved onto the recovery barge. With the liquid that remains, the vessel is too heavy to be placed on the barge. Also, the existing configuration of the rigging places too much stress on the vessel’s structure, which could cause it to break and release the remaining fuel onboard.
Responders are taking steps to secure the vessel while unified command determines next steps.
As expected, sheening was visible while the vessel was lifted to the surface. Responders were able to boom sheening and recover a small amount. Wildlife and pollution mitigation teams were mobilized and successfully deterred birds from sheening during lift operations. Teams continue to actively monitor sheening, location of marine mammals, birds and impacts to shorelines.
Air quality monitoring will remain in place until recovery operations conclude. Over the course of the response, there have been no levels of concern despite the smell of fuel in some locations while the vessel was lifted.
If the public sees uncontained sheening, please call the National Response Center at: 800-424-8802. If you encounter oiled wildlife, please contact 800-22-BIRDS.
For additional information on operations, see UPDATE #10.
Saturday, September 17, 2022 -- 7:00 p.m.
The Aleutian Isle has been raised to the surface and crews are currently dewatering the vessel. They successfully removed 250 gallons of waste oil and are trying to remove any diesel fuel remaining onboard.
As anticipated, fuel was dislodged during the lift operation and caused a visible sheen on the water's surface. Response crews are containing the sheen and attempting to recover whatever is possible. No whales were in the vicinity during the lift, and there were no reported impacts to wildlife from the sheening.
Operations will continue through the evening. Once sufficiently dewatered and defueled, the vessel will be lifted onto a lined barge for transportation.
For more pictures from vessel lifting operations, visit the Dept. of Ecology Flickr album.
Saturday, September 17, 2022 -- 2:00 p.m.
With favorable currents and weather, crews have begun lifting operations. Support vessels are mobilized on scene. The unified command urges boaters to observe the 1000-yard safety zone as well as the temporary flight restriction during this critical phase of the recovery. Violators can expect to be cited and possibly receive a civil penalty.
Keeping clear will help the response personnel stay focused without distraction and safe from boat waking that impacts heavy machinery operations. To contact the U.S. Coast Guard directly reach out on VHF marine-band radio channel 16.
Friday, September 16, 2022 -- 5:00 p.m.
Response crews working to salvage the fishing vessel Aleutian Isle have successfully rigged all needed cables to lift the vessel out of the water. Now crews are waiting for ideal conditions, as all operations are dependent on weather and tides.
Dive crews plugged all known fuel vents and valves several days ago, but there are pockets of fuel still trapped on the vessel. Small amounts of sheen have been observed in recent days. Wildlife crews initiated deterrence strategies to move birds away from sheening this morning.
Responders anticipate some fuel will be dislodged during lift operations, causing a sheen. Any released fuel will likely not be an amount that would cause significant environmental risk, but preparations are being made for worst-case scenarios. For the lift:
- Experts and resources are standing by to deploy additional boom. Currently, 7,300 feet of boom are already deployed in geographically sensitive areas, with much more on standby.
- Personnel will conduct aerial surveys to look for and track any sheen.
- Crews will be ready to deploy skimmers to attempt to capture any released fuel that is recoverable.
- Wildlife monitoring crews such as Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) teams will patrol ecologically sensitive areas.
- Whale deterrence teams are ready to deploy if whales come near the response.
- Additional teams will be on the water to look for wildlife and deter birds away from areas of sheening.
- Crews will continue community air monitoring through the duration of the lift operation.
Once the vessel is lifted, it will be placed on a lined barge, and surrounded by boom.
The 1,000-yard safety zone remains in place for on water operations. The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around the Aleutian Isle wreck site has been extended until Oct. 15. This TFR is in effect for both manned and unmanned aircraft.
For further information, read UPDATE #9.
Tuesday, September 13, 2022 -- 11:00 a.m.
Dive crews are experiencing the notorious strong currents and unpredictable and severe tide swings, which have impacted and prolonged operations. However they have still been able to make significant strides to recover the vessel. Operations succeeded in rigging the entirety of the bow section of the vessel, leaving the remaining stern as the next rigging priority.
Throughout the process, responders occasionally see light sheening that is too small to recover and dissipates quickly. There continues to be no reported impacts to wildlife or whales. Community air monitoring continues to show no levels of concern.
A 1000-yard safety zone remains in place around the worksite to ensure a safe work environment. Boaters need to give responders as much room as possible and stay out of the area for the safety of divers, and other crew working the incident. Coast Guard crews are on scene enforcing the safety zone and can be contacted directly on VHF marine-band radio channel 16.
Wednesday, September 7, 2022 -- 5:00 p.m.
Dive crews continue to prepare the vessel for lift to the surface. Rigging up the vessel will take several more days primarily due to current on site environmental conditions which complicate or delay planned dives.
As operations continue on site, responders have seen some light sheening that is too small to recover and dissipates quickly. There have been no impacts to whales or other wildlife. Community air monitoring continues to show no levels above background.
A safety zone remains in place around the worksite. Boaters need to give responders as much room as possible, and stay out of the area for the safety of divers, and other crew working the incident.
Sunday, September 4, 2022 -- 3:00 p.m.
Dive crews finished cutting away free-floating netting from the vessel and securing all remaining entanglment hazards. With the assistance of an ROV, they were also able to begin operations necessary to attach the rigging that will be used to lift the vessel.
Boats continue to violate the 1,000-yard Safety Zone established around the wreck site. The Unified Command urges the public to observe the Safety Zone for the safety of divers and response crews during recovery operations. Officials can seek a maximum civil penalty of over $94,000 per day for violating the Safety Zone. Coast Guard crews can be contacted directly on VHF marine-band radio channel 16.
Air monitoring continues with no elevated levels of concern. Whale deterrence teams are on standby. The Temporary Flight Restriction around the Aleutian Isle wreck site remains in place.
Additional photos of response efforts are available on Flickr.
Friday, September 2, 2022 -- 5:00 p.m.
Divers have secured all valves and capped all fuel vents that they are aware of on the vessel. There is nofuel leaking from the wreck.
Work continues to remove netting that is a safety hazard to divers and wildlife, and could hamper the lifting operations.
Thursday, September 1, 2022 -- 6:00 p.m.
On Wednesday 8/31, divers aided by an ROV made two dives to the wreck site. Divers began cutting away netting from the vessel to locate fuel vents and to prevent the netting from becoming entangled in the rigging during the planned lift operations. In addition, the netting poses a danger to divers and the ROV during underwater operations. Divers were also able to locate four valves and secure them shut, including valves for waste oil, hydraulic fluid, and water. Today (9/1), dive crews began working to secure the fuel oil vents and clear away entanglement hazards.
Wednesday, August 31, 2022 -- 12:00 p.m.
An ROV was deployed early Tuesday morning to the Aleutian Isle wreck site. The ROV and subsequent dive operations confirmed the commercial fishing vessel is lying hard on her starboard side with the hull facing up slope, and has not moved from its general location at a depth of more than 200 feet off San Juan Island. We plan to deploy the ROV this afternoon as divers prepare for the next window of opportunity to dive to the wreck site.
Air monitoring continues with no elevated levels of concern. No visible sheen was observed Tuesday, and no Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) were detected in the area near the wreck site. Whale deterrence teams are on standby if SRKW are detected.
A temporary safety zone extends 1,000 yards around the wreck site. Coast Guard crews are on scene to enforce the safety zone, and can be contacted directly on VHF marine-band radio channel 16.
The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around the Aleutian Isle wreck site has been extended until October 15. This TFR is in effect for both manned and unmanned aircraft. Response crews are working under very challenging conditions and aircraft can be a distraction or impede the operation of heavy equipment.
Sunday, August 28, 2022 -- 10:00 a.m.
The barge and crane that will be used to raise the sunken vessel, the Aleutian Isle, has been securely anchored, and divers are preparing for underwater operations. Dive team recovery operations are estimated to take ten days once they begin.
A temporary safety zone extends 1,000 yards around the dive site. Coast Guard crews are on scene to enforce the safety zone.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around the incident site. The public may not fly drones/UAS within this TFR zone, which extends up to and including 800 feet above areas around Henry Island and Garrison Bay south to areas around Eagle Point. The TFR will remain in effect until 1 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Read our Update #8 for more information.
Friday, August 26, 2022 -- 1:00 p.m.
On Thursday morning, United States and Canadian partners conducted a transboundary whale deterrents drill. This is the primary method of deterring Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) if they were to approach the area. The drill included four vessels from three United States organizations: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Wild Orca, and The Whale Museum. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) participated with three vessels, as well. Crews conducted a visual scan for marine mammals before starting the drill and none were seen.
The goals of this drill were to gain experience with rigging and using deterrence devices (oikomi pipes) to enhance transboundary coordination, and to test the maneuverability of the vessels individually and in coordination for a moving whale.
Dipping hydrophones were deployed to record the sound levels generated, and a post-drill meeting was held in the afternoon where participants provided feedback on the operation.
Photos of this drill are available through our Flickr album.
Thursday, August 25, 2022 -- 9:00 p.m.
Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) teams continue to patrol ecologically sensitive areas on San Juan Island to monitor for sheen and pollutants.
Coast Guard unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators are also continually conducting aerial patrols. No sheen was observed today, but our personnel continue to monitor and standby to adjust boom and materials as needed.
Wednesday, August 24, 2022 -- 6:30 p.m.
Response teams have been walking shorelines looking for any signs of impact from the sunken vessel. This process is formally known as Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Techniques (SCAT). Today teams found no oil or sheening.
Helicopter and drone flights also found no sheening today. To see one way responders use aerial technology to find sheen, view this video from the U.S. Coast Guard personnel on San Juan Island.
No wildlife has been observed in the area around the response, including Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Monday, August 22, 2022 -- 7:00 p.m.
A barge and crane are being transported from Seattle to San Juan Island to assist in raising the vessel. Due to the depth of the wreck, divers are required to use specialized gas mixtures which are currently being produced. Once the crane, barge, and gas mixture arrive later this week, removal operations will begin.
Daily overflights have shown the amount of sheening remains minimal. Crews have added additional absorbent boom to ensure environmentally sensitive areas are protected in case any sheening moves closer to land.
Read our Update #7 for more information.
Sunday, August 21, 2022 -- 10:00 p.m.
Over the weekend, an additional 1500-feet of boom was placed around White Point Peninsula as a precautionary measure in case any new sheening appears. Currently the amount of sheen is minimal. No wildlife has been observed in the area around the response, but crews continue to monitor the area for any changes.
Friday, August 19, 2022 -- 8:00 p.m.
Unified Command is moving ahead to remove the entire vessel from the seafloor and have it placed on a barge where the contaminants can be safely removed. This will ensure the removal of as much pollutants and contamination as possible, and completely remove the threat to the environment.
Dive operations are on pause in order to procure specialized equipment for a dive this deep. It will take a few days to get this equipment, and once it arrives, dive operations will begin again.
For the latest details, read our Update #6.
Friday, August 19, 2022 -- 2:00 p.m.
Members of the Unified Command met with the San Juan County council today to discuss the Aleutian Isle sinking. The meeting was live-streamed and recorded, and can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/3Te2VFg. The briefing included a discussion on the difficult nature of accessing the wreck, the preferred pollution containment and recovery plan, and Southern Resident Killer Whales/Marine mammal management plans.
Thursday, August 18, 2022 -- 9:00 p.m.
Crews continue to face challenges accessing the vessel.
Crews had acquired the necessary equipment to dive on the vessel at 100 feet. But with the sunken vessel now at a depth of over 200 feet, diving on the wreck requires additional equipment not readily available. The dive team is retrieving that more specialized equipment, designed for dive operations at depths greater than 200 feet, for the safety of those involved and the success of the operation.
In addition, divers face the strong currents of Haro Strait. The dive teams must wait for the apex of either high tide or low tide, also known as ‘slack tide,’ before entering the water.
Sheening continues to be negligible and protective booming will remain in place over the weekend as a precaution.
There have been no reports of oiled wildlife, and no sign of Southern Resident Killer Whales or other whales near the response operations.
For additional details, read our Update #5.
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 -- 9:00 p.m.
This morning, a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) found the vessel remains upright at over 200-feet below the surface. Operators of the ROV were able to see that no major fractures appeared anywhere on the hull and the fuel tanks remain intact.
The depth of the wreck poses hazards for divers while they work. Responders are gathering additional specialized equipment required for the depth and adding specialized deep-water divers to assist with response efforts.
A light visible sheen was spotted by surface crews this morning and was confirmed by drone and helicopter overflights. The 3,800-feet of absorbent boom placed throughout the area yesterday will remain in the same spots as a precautionary measure.
A dedicated wildlife team conducted an area assessment both along the shoreline and in open water. There have been no reports of oiled wildlife.
Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake, recovered more netting, weighing 400 lbs., that was lifted by crane out of the water. Approximately 1,400-feet of netting have been recovered by the crew of the Henry Blake and dive crews over the past two days. Five dogfish were found entangled in one net, one of which was successfully released. No other animals were found entangled.
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 -- 2:00 p.m.
For more pictures and video from this response, visit the Dept. of Ecology Flikr album.
Today crews are continuing work to recover netting from the vessel. They are also planning ROV dive operations to assess the wreck and determine next steps.
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 -- 10:00 p.m.
There is was a reduction in sheen visible on the water’s surface this morning, which was confirmed by observations from land, sea and air. By mid-afternoon the sheen appeared to have completely dissipated.
First responders from the Coast Guard along with State and local experts from the Department of Ecology and San Juan County patrolled the beaches in the vicinity of the spill and could find any sheening on the shore.
More than 3,800-feet of absorbent boom has been placed throughout the affected area. While there is no sheen, the booming is remaining in place as a precautionary measure.
The Department of Ecology continues the community air monitoring program, noting that no monitors have shown any levels above background (normal) levels.
Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake was diverted to the area to recover a seine net that floated free of the wreck. The crew of the cutter was able to remove most of the netting. A second net was observed submerged at approximately 100-feet of depth by divers yesterday and dive teams were able to remove several panels of the netting today.
Dive operations on the wreck are limited due to the depth of the vessel and underwater conditions. The Coast Guard has brought a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) on scene to use in the response. The use of the ROV will allow the responders and contractors to assess the state of the sunken vessel before divers descend.
Today local volunteers from a variety of advocacy groups, including the Whale Museum and Sound watch, worked under the supervision of NOAA to practice whale deterrent measures at sea. While marine mammals have not been sighted in the immediate vicinity of the spill, teams remain poised to respond. Unified Command crew continue to work alongside partner agencies, including the Canadian Regional Operations Center, to track SRKWs utilizing hydrophone and sonogram technology.
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 -- 12:45 p.m.
Responders on scene and drone/helicopter overflights show a reduction in the sheen on the water.
The depth of the wreck has prompted the USCG to bring a specialized Remotely Operated Vehicle to the San Juan Islands which will be on scene today.
The Cutter Henry Blake is on scene to recover the loose net from the surface. Divers will be working today to remove a second net which is submerged near the original location of the sunken vessel at 100 ft. mark.
Monday, August 15, 2022 -- 9:00 p.m.
Commercial dive and salvage teams dove on the vessel today to remove the remaining fuel. However, divers could not initially locate the vessel despite previous side-scan sonar having located the boat. In the past 36 hours the vessel has shifted positions and is now located in waters around 200' in depth. This presents additional logistical challenges that the dive team is working to resolve.
One of the nets that had been attached to the Aleutian Isle when it sank has floated free and crews have marked its positions and will be working to extract it from the water tomorrow.
The Unified Command continues to work with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and local partners to monitor marine mammals. No whales have been observed in the vicinity of the affected area.
The Department of Ecology continues to monitor air quality in nearby areas. No monitors have shown any result above background levels.
Monday, August 15, 2022 -- 8:00 p.m.
Monday, August 15, 2022 -- 1:00 p.m.
Yesterday a contracted vessel spent 9 hours deploying and collecting absorbent booming to capture surface oil. Approximately 2100 feet of booming has been placed which includes protecting Small Pox Bay and Open Water Bay.
The dive team is looking for the best way to secure vents on the vessel so that the tanks can be de-fueled.
Follow @USCGPacificNW on Twitter or keep an eye here for further updates.
Monday, August 15, 2022 -- 11:00 a.m.
A safety zone has been put in place around the response area. All vessels must remain at least 1,000 yards from any vessel conducting dive operations.
Department of Ecology has deployed a community air monitoring network to track air quality from the spilled diesel. Air quality levels have been and remain below harmful thresholds.
Whale monitoring efforts show no whales in the impacted area. Monitoring efforts ran all night Sunday, Aug. 14, and will continue the night of Monday, Aug. 15. Qualified personnel are on scene and prepared to prevent marine mammals from approaching or entering the affected area. This has not been necessary thus far.
There have been no reports of oiled wildlife.
Sunday, August 14, 2022 -- 7:00 p.m.
Response contractors are on scene planning next steps for removal of the fuel remaining in the vessel.
For further information on this response, please see the Unified Command press release.
Sunday, August 14, 2022 -- 3:30 p.m.
Responders have placed absorbent boom in the water to try to recover some visible material.
Divers are determining the best course of action to remove the fuel from the sunken vessel. The depth of the wreck poses safety concerns and additional equipment is needed for the safety of the response.
The Unified Command is also sharing information and coordinating with Canadian authorities because the incident is close to the border.
Sunday, August 14, 2022 -- 2:30 p.m.
Coast Guard, WDFW, Orca Network, Sound Watch and NOAA are monitoring the location of the Southern Resident Killer Whales in the vicinity of the San Juan Islands. While there are not any whales currently in the area, our agencies are prepared to deploy authorized deterrents. Monitoring efforts began yesterday and continued through the night.
There is a non-recoverable sheen dispersing around the immediate area. Contractors are placing absorbant boom near certain shoreline areas for protection.
If you see any impacted wildlife, contact the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife at 1-800-22-BIRDS.
Sunday, August 14, 2022 -- 1:00 p.m.
Response agencies are responding to a sunken 49-foot fishing vessel, the Aleutian Isle, on the west side of San Juan Island near Sunset Point.
A Unified Command has been set up for this incident, comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology, San Juan County Office of Emergency Management and the Swinomish Tribe. Support agencies include NOAA, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Islands' Oil Spill Association, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This incident started as a search and rescue, and all persons on board were rescued safely. The vessel sank in approximately 100 feet of water. The fishing vessel has a fuel capacity of 4,000 gallons and was reported to have 2,500 gallons of diesel on board at the time of the sinking, with approximately 100 gallons of motor oil and other oils. Both the Coast Guard and Dept. of Ecology performed overflights of the area and is reporting a two mile sheen traveling north from the sinking location.
Ecology, the US Coast Guard, and San Juan County are responding, and two response contractors are en route; Global Diving and Salvage and Tow Boat USA.
Saturday, August 13, 2022 -- 5:00 p.m.
Ecology was notified of a sinking vessel off San Juan Island. US Coast Guard is responding to the incident and Ecology responders are en route.
Coast Guard Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-251-3237
If you see oiled wildlife, contact the Wildlife Hotline: 1-800-22-BIRDS. Do not attempt to capture wildlife.
A claims process has been established for those that may be financially affected by this response. Please direct your requests to Matthew.C.Seel@uscg.mil at the National Pollution Funds Center.