U.S. Coast Guard

Whale Watching Captain Captures Dolphins Swimming Through Giant Oil Sheen Off Coast of Point Loma

Two separate oil sheens were reported Saturday off the coast of Southern California, prompting a multi-agency investigation

Domenic Biagini/Gone Whale Watching

Two reported oil sheens near the San Diego coastline, one near Point Loma and one near San Clemente Island, appeared over the weekend and led to a response by several state and federal agencies.

Captain Domenic Biagini of Gone Whale Watching San Diego was on an extended whale watching trip, heading to an area with recent Blue Whale sightings when he came across the spill. Biagini was able to film the oil sheen with a drone, and in doing so, captured a pod of dolphins swimming through it.

"The most tragic thing I’ve ever filmed: a pod of dolphins swimming through a giant oil spill," Biagini posted to his company's Facebook page. "The spill is spanning an area covering more than 50 miles, and it is lurking just off the coast of San Diego."

After receiving reports of an oil sheen about 11 miles northwest of Point Loma around 10:30 a.m. on June 19, the United States Coast Guard sent a helicopter crew to evaluate the area. They verified a sheen 3 miles long and half a mile wide, according to a USCG news release.

The sheen had been present since the day before, the reporting party said, according to a release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA added that the USCG had not requested its support to investigate that report.

About 80 minutes later, at 11:50 a.m. Saturday, a second sheen was reported 14 miles off the shore of San Clemente Island. A Navy vessel in the area could not confirm the sheen at that time, nor was a USCG helicopter Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard said.

The sheen is believed to be caused by an unknown petroleum product, such as diesel fuel, according to the USCG. The Coast Guard's pollution response personnel reported that the fuel causing the sheen was unrecoverable and would dissipate naturally.

The USCG said it has been coordinating with the U.S. Navy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife since Saturday to investigate the cause of the sheen.

“The Coast Guard takes all reports of marine environmental pollution seriously,” said Lt. Ryan Szabo, USCG Sector San Diego Incident Management Division Chief. “We thank all of the responsible citizens who reported these environmental concerns in a timely manner.”

The cause of the sheens remain under investigation.

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