Credit: Scott Safechuck / Santa Barbara County Fire

After a fishing boat carrying 16,000 pounds of squid ran aground off Santa Cruz Island last Thursday, the operation to contain the toxic diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid had turned into a salvage operation by the following Tuesday.

The Speranza Marie held about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel when it hit shore at Chinese Harbor around 2 a.m. on December 15, for reasons that remain under investigation, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm. The island is about 27 miles directly south of the City of Santa Barbara and part of the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary.

The six people aboard were rescued by another fishing boat and taken to Ventura, while a toxic-response team and cleanup crew headed to the island. Diesel fuel is light and floats, rather than sinking, and had largely evaporated within a few days, leaving a bare rainbow shimmer. The containers holding the eight tons of calamari had smashed open as the 60-foot boat was ground into the rocks by waves and tides, said Brahm, which was making the recovery and salvage difficult, though about 20 gallons of hydraulic oils were removed. One dead cormorant was retrieved by Fish & Wildlife responders.

The salvage team — Global Diving and Salvage and Tow Boat U.S.A. — was planning to drag the boat off the rocks and sink it to stabilize it for removal, the Coast Guard announced on Tuesday. Windy weather was expected, and possible rain next week, and the Speranza Marie would be anchored in place for the next salvage step.

The boat is owned by Ocean Angel VI LLC, a commercial fishing company based in Watsonville, which shares an address with Del Mar Seafood, which unloads in Ventura Harbor and is based out of Monterey. The Unified Command includes Coast Guard, state Fish & Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Santa Barbara County, Channel Islands National Park, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and Ocean Angel representatives.

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