Mysterious Oil Spill In Brazil Is Turning Beaches Black And Killing Off Wildlife

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Weeks after wildfires started by agricultural companies threatened to burn down the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is facing another environmental crisis. At least 100 tons of crude oil have washed up on the shores of Brazil’s northeast coast, though the origin of the oil is still a mystery.

According to the New York Times, oil slicks have been reported on more than 132 beaches and 61 municipalities in nine states. Brazil’s Environment Ministry maintains that the state-owned oil company Petrobras is not responsible for the oil spill, and that the oil was neither produced in the country nor imported.

Source: YouTube/Al Jazeera English


President Jair Bolsonaro said another country is suspected of producing the oil, though Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles said the oil is “very likely from Venezuela.”

Salles told a congressional hearing that the oil probably came from a container ship sailing near Brazil’s coast, and that the spill is “enormously difficult to contain.”

Source: YouTube/Al Jazeera English


“This incident on the coast shows precisely the importance of (environmental) licensing, of a model and of a system to efficiently contain the damages,” Salles said. “When (a spill) is of an unknown origin as is the present case, the system clearly needs to be improved.”

Source: YouTube/Al Jazeera English
A sea turtle covered in crude oil.


The Brazilian government is taking “urgent measures to address pollution,” Salles said, after the state of Sergipe declared the disaster an emergency, and a threat to public health. Brazilians have been warned against using beaches affected by the oil spill, while marine biologists have been called in to clean up and treat the wildlife that’s washing ashore covered in crude.

Source: YouTube/Al Jazeera English
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro speaks to reporters.

There has yet been no response to the spill from neighboring Venezuela, though tension between the two countries is undoubtedly rising, the Guardian reports. Bolsonaro, considered a far-right president, has been highly critical of Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro, and has at times reached out to rightwing groups in the country that seek to overthrow the Venezuelan president.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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