About 67,000 sheep have left been stranded at a port in Australia after a live animal export ship broke down at sea.
The ship, bound for the Middle East, was forced to return to a port in Adelaide, South Australia, after it suffered a mechanical failure.
The Australian government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said the sheep have remained on board since the ship’s return to port, but insisted the vessel’s ventilation, feed and water systems were all working properly.
DAFF said it was working with the sheep exporter and port officials to ensure the animals’ welfare was maintained.
A department official said the ship was being assessed to determine if immediate repairs could be carried out.
“If the vessel can undergo immediate repair, the sheep may remain on board,” the spokesman said.
“If the ship cannot be repaired within a reasonable period, the sheep can be unloaded and moved directly to a nearby feedlot that is an AQIS-approved registered facility.”
The ship’s breakdown comes amid controversy surrounding Australia’s live animal export industry.
Protestors have been calling for an end to the exports after footage was recorded of cattle in Indonesia – which had been sent from Australia – being mistreated.
In May the government stepped in and suspended live cattle trade before revamping export rules to ensure cattle were only sent to abattoirs where animal welfare standards had been approved.
Exports resumed this week (14 August), but the industry’s future is still under threat as the federal parliament will debate two bills to end the trade, one which will see live exports phased out by 2014, over the next few days.