Coast Guard investigating fuel spill near San Clemente Island

SAN DIEGO (KABC) -- The U.S. Goard Guard is now investigating a fuel spill off the coast of San Clemente Island.

On Tuesday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy said they were not responsible for investigating reports of a fuel spill off the coast of San Clemente Island.

Domenic Biagini is the captain and owner of Gone Whale Watching. In video recorded on his phone, you can hear the disgust in Biagini's voice as he and his crew discover dolphins swimming through diesel.

"They were just, you know, stuck swimming through fuel and it was really hard to watch. They were not acting normal," Biagini said.

Biagini tells Eyewitness News they spotted it Saturday, 65 miles off the coast of San Diego, near San Clemente Island, which is owned and operated by the Navy.

Biagini pulled his drone out to record, in hopes of finding the end. He estimates the sheen was about 50 miles long.

"We could not see the end of this slick for the life of us once we got into it," Biagini said. "So, we immediately called the Coast Guard on the VHF channel 16 which is what we're supposed to do."

The Coast Guard had previously told Eyewitness News on Tuesday the Navy was responsible for investigating and that the Navy reported to the USCG they were in the area on Saturday and did not see a sheen.

After the story aired on Eyewitness News, two Navy spokespeople answered our questions - one over the phone, the other via email.

The Navy told Eyewitness News the USCG is responsible for investigating spills, and that the Navy is not investigating this matter. When asked whether the Navy was behind this spill, we were told the Navy has no reports of a spill.

According to a press release Wednesday, the Coast Guard conducted an overflight Tuesday afternoon above the area of the reported San Clemente Island sheen, but no visible sheen was reported.
Biagini said he saw Navy boats out there and doesn't see how anyone could have missed it.

"I mean, we couldn't breathe. It was like the fumes were so toxic. It was such a dense area," Biagini said.

Veterinarian Dr. Michael Ziccardi said staff with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, managed by UC Davis, saw Biagini's video on social media and was monitoring in case any wildlife were in need of help.

According to Ziccardi, those dolphins seen in the video swimming through fuel could have medical issues as a result.

"Can have effect on the eyes or some of the sensitive tissues and then also respirator damage at least we've seen that in birds," Ziccardi said.

"That was definitely one of the harder things I've had to film in my life, for sure," Biagini said.

The Coast Guard confirmed spotting another sheen Saturday, off the coast of Point Loma. They said that one is small enough to dissipate on its own.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story previously said the Coast Guard was not investigating the spill, but after the ABC7 report aired Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard did launch an investigation.

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