Reporting marine oil spills

Reporting a marine oil spill early is critical. Oil introduces toxic material into the food chain, degrades beaches, and can smother marine organisms.

Don't attempt to clean up the spill yourself - the incident will be investigated and a suitable response made - eg:

  • allowing the fuel to naturally dissipate
  • agitation of the water
  • use of recovery equipment.

How to report a marine oil spill

If you witness pollution from a ship or notice oil on any waters phone 8248 3505 or call on radio channel 12 at all hours.

Provide as much information as possible - tell the operator:

  • any other relevant information available.
  • your contact details
  • when and where the pollution occurred
  • the type of substance discharged
  • the extent of the pollution
  • name of the vessel or other source.

How to tell if a substance is oil

  • When oil enters water it will generally quickly start to spread to a thin layer, often over a large area.
  • Oil generally has a sheen on water.
  • Oil will generally appear smoother or 'slick' compared to the surrounding water.
  • Oil will generally have a strong smell (petroleum-based product).
  • If oil is on rocks, sand, or other structures it will not wash off with water.
  • If it quickly washes off into the water it is probably algae.
  • If unsure, always report it.

Sea scum

During the summer months, South Australian waters experience a phenomenon commonly known as sea scum.

Short filaments of algal plant life, disturbed by wind and sea, appear as grey-fawn-coloured streaks on the water. The algae can also be red, red-brown, or yellow, often resembling oil. As the algae decays it gives off an offensive odour similar to chlorine, iodine, or oil.

Related information

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    Page last updated 29 May 2023

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