Oil washes up at Isla Margarita, nobody cares

With its indifferent, deadpan tone, this article reads like something out of the Onion. But it’s a serious news article.

Playa el Agua in happier times

Playa el Agua in happier times, Oct 31 2009

Informe25 reprints an article from the Isla Margarita Sun, saying oil is washing up on Isla Margarita, a tourist island in the Caribbean off eastern Venezuela. It’s Semana Santa, the biggest tourist time of the year, so the government has to decide — do we protect public health or do we let people swim in crude oil and let business make some money? And the visiting public has to decide — complain and go to another beach, or have another beer and put up with a little black spot on the beach towel? If you can understand both the public and government response, you will be on your way to understanding the nature of both “socialism” and “public opinion” in Venezuela.

Alarm over drops of oil in Margarita beaches: Environment Ministry says there’s no danger

Droplets of oil along four kilometers of seaside alarmed bathers Thursday at El Agua beach in Antolín del Campo.

Despite the remains of crude oil, high-season visitors didn’t cease to enjoy the sun, sea and sand. In Parguito, El Tirano, Manzanillo and El Cardón, the shores were full of seaweed. Bathers commented that they only saw a few poisonous jellyfish.

Workers at seaside services, residents and visitors were surprised as overnight, small and large spots of a viscous, black liquid along the shoreline of the bathing area, appeared like big dead jellyfish.

Sunbathers at El Agua beach recounted that on Monday and Tuesday there were many jellyfish, but they never thought it was oil residue.

“Maybe it’s something passing. Probably a ship went by and tossed oil in the sea, and because of the strong currents, it arrived in the beach,” commented a group of visitors from Caracas, while observing that seaweed and driftwood were covered in the black liquid.

Lifeguards emphasized that years ago, the same thing happened. The beach appeared clean and suddenly drops of oil were found. We don’t know if it was a spill from land or a passing ship that discarded oil.

Miguel Rondón, from the Venezuelan capital, preferred not to immerse himself in the sea to avoid any skin irritation. “While there aren’t many drops, they get your attention because they’re along the entire beach.”


The regional director of the Environment Ministry, Marina D’ Amelio, said that there’s no alarm for the oil drops on the seaside. “What comes out of the sea comes out, and that’s it.”

D’Amelio explained that they are going with a hypothesis that a cargo ship discharged into the sea and the remains are arriving at the coasts of the El Agua beach and some parts of El Humo and Parguito.

Given the situation, they verified by air and sea whether there was any oil slick. “Coast guards traveled from Guacuco beach to Puerto Real and didn’t find anything. They overflew Coche and Cubagua islands and didn’t find any signs there either.” As they didn’t see any slicks, the beaches remain open to the public.

With help from Pdvsa, they took samples from the sand and in the coming days will give results. The studies will be conducted on land.

Now mind you, crude oil isn’t all bad. Indigenous people across the Americas used it as a muscle balm for both humans and horses. And these beaches are often covered in so much seaweed that not everyone even gets in the water in the first place. Mainly it’s kids who go swimming, and everyone knows that children are immune to crude oil.

Also noting: it’s possible that the oil comes from a natural underwater seep. Wouldn’t it be cool if Isla Margarita were home to undiscovered offshore oil deposits.

6 thoughts on “Oil washes up at Isla Margarita, nobody cares

  1. Steven

    It’s true that there are thousands of oil seeps around the world, including the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Maracaibo. But I doubt that any oil seeps around Margarita would have gone this long without being researched. A passing tanker unloading ballast seems more likely.

  2. westslope

    Does oil on a beach hurt children? That would be a new one for me. And if oil is dangerous for children what about all those blue-collar workers that are in close contact with oil an a daily basis?

    Funny about beaches. There are indeed ‘natural’ beaches but many are man-made and man-maintained and represent a significant accomplishment in localized habitat destruction. If the Old Testament God wanted man to righteously destroy nature in his image, beaches are the iconic symbol of such divine purpose.

    Speaking of which, this is the time of year that fish populations get hammered throughout Latin America. For the rich, shark is popular.

    Makes one wonder on occasion if Jesus Christ was an open-access ideologue….. Perhaps the tragedy of the commons is simply God’s will?

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      yes, crude oil releases all sorts of volatile hydrocarbons, many of them mutagenic or carcinogenic. it’s best to avoid these chemicals, whether you are a child or adult.

      of course if you go to the beach and drink sun-blasted diet inca kola, you may consume more benzine from it than you are in the water. so whatever.

      1. Kepler

        I have never ever heard of oil seeps in that region. I will ask a couple of real Margariteños, people with Waiquerí blood in their veins. Humboldt told us there were oil seeps in Southern Araya, but that is way way away from there., also in the area of Cariaco, if my memory does not fail me. From there to Antolín in Margarita? Hm…

    2. Kepler

      Man-made? Venezuela is not Florida. That beach was as much natural as one could get. Unfortunately, Venezuelans are not precisely environment fanatics. In fact, we are environment pigs.

      Those beaches mentioned there usually get waves that come from the east (from whence the cold comes, unlike in Macanao or in the Caribbean proper). It would be very interesting indeed if some specialist would analyse the nature of the oil found there.

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