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Sunken ship's fuel spill in Frenchman Bay worries shellfish harvesters

The 40-foot ship Black Beauty was launched May 25, began taking on water, and eventually sank

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Officials say a ship that sank near Frenchman Bay last week almost closed the area to all shellfish harvesting just before the Memorial Day weekend.

The 40-foot ship Black Beauty was launched May 25 and, began taking on water quickly and eventually sank. The vessel also leaked diesel fuel into the bay.

State officials from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Marine Patrol considered closing the area to shellfish harvesting for fear of diesel fuel contamination. Maine Marine Patrol Sgt. Colin MacDonald said the leak could have impacted the area near Jordan River.

Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, said a local man at a family-owned mussel farm put on his dive suit to stop the leak and close off the fuel valves to the engine room. 

Alex de Koning, whose family owns Hollander & de Koning Mussels, dove into the ship and stopped the leaking fuel. He said it was too dangerous to enter the water the day the ship sank due to bad weather, so they had to wait until the next day.

“Given the proximity to our leases, it presented both a risk to our farm but also on the waterfront,” de Koning said. “Everyone works together and so it was quite obvious that it presented a risk to a lot of people in the community and so you got to take care of the bay that gives us all a living.”

“We heard very quickly through the grapevine that Alex and company had stepped in here and interceded in a situation that could have been very serious for the local environment and for other growers in the bay,” said Belle.

Tiffany LaClair, an oil & hazmat responder with the Maine DEP, said the wind blowing away from shore helped lessen the impact of the spill.

de Koning said the DEP also helped by supplying him with the equipment and tips that he needed to get the leak stopped.

No one was hurt, LeClair said, and the boat owner will not be fined. 

The ship was towed and removed from the water on Thursday, May 27, two days after it sank.