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Keys Sanctuary Apparently Safe From Offshore Slick With AM-Tanker Aground Bjt

March 3, 1989

KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) _ The Coast Guard spotted an oil slick off the northern Florida Keys on Friday, but marine reserve officials said the two-mile spill apparently was no immediate threat to the area’s popular reefs.

The slick, of unknown origin, was 10 to 12 miles off the north Key Largo coast Friday afternoon, said Coast Guard spokesman Joe Dye.

″Where it is, it would not be a threat,″ he said. Two or three dead birds were spotted, but it was not clear if they were killed by the oil, Dye said.

Officials of two parks off Key Largo - the Key Largo National Marine Reserve and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - sent boats out to survey the area after spotting some tar balls in the waters.

″We have tar balls measuring one-quarter to 4 inches in diameter that are washing near the southern boundary on the park,″ said Pennekamp director Carl Nielsen. ″But it is not a big spill. This is a normal occurrence from ships that pass by, and it won’t have a big effect on the park.″

The 20-mile-long offshore state park, a favorite among divers, stretches north from Molasses Point off the Atlantic shore of Key Largo. The federal Key Largo reserve covers about the same area, but outside the three-mile limit.

The slick was first reported to be as large as 10 miles long, 2 miles wide, and as much as 4 feet deep, which would have made it a major spill.

But an overflight Friday by a Coast Guard marine safety officer discovered the spill was only two miles long and a quarter-mile wide, and in some places was only a light stain.

The spill could have been bunker oil released by a ship, said Coast Guard marine safety office spokeswoman Lynn Mountcastle.

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