Volcano eruption linked to ecological disaster 10,000km away

·Environment Editor
·3-min read
  • Marine mammals could strand following volcano eruption

  • Turtles eggs may have been lost in tsunami

  • Peru's oil spill disaster linked to Tonga event

Dolphins living across Tonga’s coral reefs could be victims of Saturday’s volcanic eruption, an expert has warned.

Scientists believe loud underwater noise frequently causes marine mammals to strand, and the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano blast was likely the loudest undersea explosion in 30 years.

When such an event occurs, it has the potential to impact acoustically sensitive cetaceans which use echolocation to communicate.

Birdlife in Peru has been impacted after rough ocean conditions caused by Tonga's volcano resulted in an oil spill. Source: Reuters / Maxar
Birdlife in Peru has been impacted after rough ocean conditions caused by Tonga's volcano resulted in an oil spill. Source: Reuters / Maxar

Affected species could include both spinner and bottlenose dolphins, along with sperm and beaked whales, according to New Zealand-based marine biologist Mike Donoghue.

“If the pressure waves were as described, then there's a strong likelihood that individuals and small groups of whales and dolphins may wash up over the next week or two,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

Sea turtles could by impacted by Tonga tsunami

Luckily for the region’s humpback whale population, the eruption occurred outside their breeding season.

Whales migrate to the archipelago during the winter months but return to Antarctica for summer feeding, which is when the eruption occurred.

Humpback whales draw tourists to Tonga when they migrate to the nation in winter. Source: Getty
Humpback whales draw tourists to Tonga when they migrate to the nation in winter. Source: Getty

While much of the focus has been on the blast itself, which was so loud Mr Donoghue heard it almost 2000km away at his home on the Coromandel Peninsula near Auckland, scientists have a number of other concerns.

The volcanic ash and acid rain which followed the event could have some localised impact on marine environments.

Scientists have noted ash can also have a positive impact, triggering a fertilising effect in the ocean and generating plankton blooms.

Sea turtles could be negatively impacted, with the tsunami having the potential to have changed beaches and washed out eggs from nests.

Wildlife around Tonga will likely only be harmed in the short-term, according to Associate Professor Oliver Nebel, a geochemist at Monash University.

Workers in Ventanilla, Peru, clean up after an oil spill. Source: Reuters
Workers in Ventanilla, Peru, clean up after an oil spill. Source: Reuters

While conditions for marine life are probably "not great" right now, he's "not too worried" about their future.

"Volcanic eruptions are a natural phenomenon, and with this yes there is a disruption of marine life in the area, but that has happened in the past and it will happen again," he told Yahoo News Australia.

Ecological disaster in Peru linked to Tonga volcano

Tonga's volcano has been connected to an ecological disaster 10,000km away in Peru, where an oil spill occurred on the weekend.

Animal and plant life has been impacted across an 18,000 square kilometre protected zone near the city of Ventanilla, according to the country’s foreign ministry.

The spill occurred as a tanker was unloading at Spanish-owned Repsol's La Pampilla refinery and was blamed on unusually large waves resulting from Tonga’s tsunami.

Peru’s government has called for the company to pay for the incident and prosecutors are currently investigating.

with Reuters

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting