Dispersants may do more harm than good in NZ oil spill case

Rena’s list has worsened to about 18° to starboard and between 200 and 300 tonnes of oil has leaked into the ocean. AFP PHOTO/MARITIME NEW ZEALAND

Dispersants used to break down the 300 tonnes of oil that has leaked from a cargo ship into New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty may do marine ecosystems more harm than good, an ocean oil spill expert has said.

Since cargo ship Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef near New Zealand’s Tauranga harbour last week, large clumps of oil have washed ashore and at least 53 birds (including 17 that were oil-slicked) have been found dead.

Oil from the stricken ship, Rena, has begun washing up on the beach, Mount Manguanui, New Zealand. AAP/ NZN Image/SNPA, John Cowpland