An area of Bristol Bay near Naknek was temporarily closed to commercial salmon fishing this week after a boat that washed ashore leaked diesel, creating a visible sheen.
The “structurally compromised” fishing tender was leaking diesel fuel on the Naknek Beach south of Pederson Point Cannery, according to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game advisory. Most of the fuel was pumped off the vessel as spill mitigation measures continued, the agency said.
A powerful storm moved into the area Sunday when the boat was anchored, said Bernie Nowicki, an environmental program manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The storm caused the boat’s anchor to drag and the vessel began taking on water.
The captain headed for the Naknek River to get out of rough water but the boat lost propulsion and he beached it to prevent further difficulties, Nowicki said.
“I think he made the right call landing that vessel when he lost propulsion,” he said. “I believe had he not done that, we would be looking at a bigger incident out there in the bay, with potentially loss of life.”
None of the fuel tanks were breached, Nowicki said. Some pollutants were released around the vessel, but he said it was likely only a small amount of fuel had spilled and was causing the sheen. The crew was cleaning and recovering any hazardous materials from the area on Tuesday, he said.
The boat was severely damaged in the storm — Nowicki said there was a gaping hole in the rear quarter.
On Monday, Fish and Game closed the Naknek Section to gillnet gear from the south edge of the Pederson Point dock south to the North Naknek Beach Access Road in response to the sheen. The agency announced Tuesday afternoon it was reopening the area for fishing.
The major pollution sources were removed and just a small residual sheen remained, biologists said in an emergency order Tuesday.
“Efforts are continuing to remove the vessel,” the order said. “Set gillnet permit holders in the immediate area should use their best judgement when operating near the vessel.”