On Tuesday morning, the US Coast Guard and the US Navy said they were not responsible for investigating reports of a fuel spill off the coast of San Clemente Island.
Domenic Biagini is the captain and owner of Gone Whale Watching. In a video recorded on his phone, you can hear the disgust in Biagini’s voice as he and his crew discover dolphins swimming in diesel.
“They were just, you know, stuck in the fuel and it was really hard to watch. They weren’t acting normally,” Biagini said.
Biagini told Eyewitness News they spotted him on Saturday, 65 miles off the coast of San Diego, near San Clemente Island, which is owned and operated by the Navy.
Biagini took out his drone to record, hoping to find the end. He estimates that the shard was about 50 miles long.
“We couldn’t see the end of this slick for our lives once we entered it,” Biagini said. “So we immediately called the coast guard on VHF channel 16, which we are supposed to do.”
The Coast Guard previously told Eyewitness News on Tuesday that the Navy was in charge of investigating and that the Navy had reported to the USCG that it was in the area on Saturday and had not seen any shards.
After the story aired on Eyewitness News, two Navy spokespersons answered our questions – one by phone, the other by email.
The Navy told Eyewitness News that the USCG is responsible for investigating the spills and the Navy is not investigating the matter. When asked if the Navy was responsible for this spill, we were told that the Navy had no report of a spill.
According to a press release on Wednesday, the Coast Guard conducted an overflight Tuesday afternoon over the area of the reported San Clemente Island shard, but no visible shards were reported.
Biagini said he saw Navy boats there and didn’t see how anyone could have missed him.
“I mean, we couldn’t breathe. It was like the fumes were so toxic. It was such a dense area,” Biagini said.
Veterinarian Dr Michael Ziccardi said staff at the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, run by UC Davis, had seen Biagini’s video on social media and were watching in case any wildlife needed help.
According to Ziccardi, the dolphins seen in the video swimming in fuel could have medical problems as a result.
“May have an effect on the eyes or some of the sensitive tissue and then on damage to the respirator, at least we’ve seen it in birds,” Ziccardi said.
“It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to film in my life for sure,” Biagini said.
The Coast Guard confirmed spotting another shard on Saturday off Point Loma. They said one is small enough to dissipate on its own.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story previously indicated that the Coast Guard was not investigating the spill, but after the ABC7 report aired on Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard launched an investigation.
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