U.S. Coast Guard

Dolphins Seen Swimming Through Reported Oil Sheen Off California Coast

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

Domenic Biagini/Gone Whale Watching

The captain of a whale-watching boat, out on an extended trip to show passengers a group of blue whales, captured a "tragic" sight off the coast of San Diego.

Captain Domenic Biagini, via a Facebook post from the Gone Whale Watching San Diego tour agency, said his vessel came across a "giant" oil sheen covering a part of the ocean. At least a dozen dolphins appeared on video swimming through the area in drone footage Biagini filmed and attached with his message.

"The most tragic thing I’ve ever filmed: a pod of dolphins swimming through a giant oil spill," Biagini wrote in the Sunday post.

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.

Biagini said in his post that he had reported the sheen he saw to the NOAA, the Coast Guard and the EPA, and that the oil covered "more than 50 miles" of ocean.

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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