divers try to salvage ship in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

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Posted by on February 02, 2005 at 03:21:10:

MONTEREY, Calif. - Divers on Tuesday tried to salvage a 62-foot vessel that sank in a federally protected marine sanctuary while carrying 1,700 gallons of diesel fuel.

The Albion, which was headed from San Diego to Oregon, was being towed by a tug Monday when it sank about two miles west of Del Monte Beach in about 180 feet of water. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the accident is still under investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The accident happened in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, an underwater wildlife preserve stretching 276 miles from Marin to Cambria. The 5,322-square-mile park - larger than Yosemite or Yellowstone national parks - supports one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems.

The park surrounds Monterey Bay one of the world's deepest underwater canyons and is home to thousands of mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates and plants. It also has the nation's largest kelp forest and the nearest deep-ocean diving environment in the continental United States.

Coast Guard officials were meeting this week with officials from the state Department of Fish and Game and the marine sanctuary. They characterized damage to animals as "minimal," said Lexia Littlejohn, assistant chief of marine environmental response at the Marine Safety Office San Francisco Bay.

On Monday, Coast Guard officials could see a "light sheen" of diesel fuel less than a mile wide by 40 feet long near the site of the sunken ship. The sheen had disappeared by Tuesday afternoon, Littlejohn said.

"We don't believe the vessel is leaking at this time," Littlejohn said. "We're trying to develop a viable salvage plan."

A spokesman at Vessel Assist, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based salvage company, said Tuesday that divers had patched fuel tank vents to prevent leaks and were considering salvage options.

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