Mexican environmental authorities are demanding that state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos clean up a crude spill that occurred when a loading buoy sank nearly two weeks ago and polluted six beaches.

The sinking of the buoy (used to load crude onto tankers in deep water) happened off the coast of the southern state of Oaxaca, near the Salina Cruz refinery in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Local media reported Thursday that a boat collided with the buoy because it lacked signaling lights, causing it to sink and spill the crude it was storing.

Mexico's environmental protection agency, Profepa, instructed Pemex to immediately take steps "to prevent crude from continuing to spread off the coasts of fishing communities in the state of Oaxaca."

For his part, Environment Secretary Rafael Elvira Quesada, criticized the response of Pemex representatives to the spill.

"There was a delay on the part of the local Pemex official in charge in responding to the emergency; the volume of crude contained in the buoy has spread, which reflects scant willingness to care for the environment," Elvira Quesada said.

The official said the important thing is not the volume of crude spilled but its environmental impact.

The federal Environment Secretariat said authorities have detected the presence of crude on the Salinas del Marques, Brasil, Brasilito, Azul, Punta Conejo and Escondida or Guelaguichi beaches in Oaxaca and urged Pemex to collect the spilled crude and clean up those areas.

It noted that environmental authorities toured the region Thursday to assess the situation and determine the damage caused to marine species that inhabit that region, such as crabs, fish and turtles, as well as the ecosystem in general.

In that respect, Profepa said Pemex must immediately inform authorities of accidents that threaten the environment and not let days go by before authorities can carry out their inspections. It added that Pemex only notified officials of the spill several days after it occurred.

Several fishermen's organizations have reported damage to marine ecosystems and fishing grounds, which they depend on for their livelihoods. EFE