Concern for oil spill in East Rennell, Solomon Islands, in central Pacific

Wednesday, 20 February 2019
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Map of the East Rennell World Heritage site and the adjacent Kangava / Kagava Bay. © UNESCO

An oil spill has reportedly occurred in East Rennell, Solomon Islands on Tuesday, 19 February when a bulk carrier ran aground at Kangava Bay, just outside of the World Heritage property.

East Rennell was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1998 and is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. The site includes Lake Tegano, a brackish lake containing many rugged limestone islets which was the former lagoon on the atoll, a diverse and unmodified forest vegetation, and a marine area extending 3 nautical miles to sea. The property was the first natural property inscribed on the World Heritage List with customary ownership and management, and approximately 1,200 people of Polynesian origin occupy four villages within the boundaries of the property, living mainly by subsistence gardening, hunting and fishing.

East Rennell was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2013 for threats to its Outstanding Universal Value posed by commercial logging of its forests and the introduction of invasive rats. The site also suffers from over-exploitation of its marine resources of which little is known to date.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre is concerned about the impact of the grounding on the World Heritage area, and is working with the national authorities to ascertain the status of the situation and the best mitigation measures to be taken.