When the cargo ship Japanese ship MV Wakashoi ran aground a protected coral reef in Mauritius, it unleashed over 1,000 tonnes of sticky, black oil into the ocean and along the protected coastline of the island.
Even though the spill only covers 15km of the 350km shoreline, it will have long lasting effects because it has spread into environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve which is of international importance. Mauritius is a biodiversity hotspot with lots of species that are unique to the island. Coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves make the waters very rich in biodiversity. The oil spill will bleach the important coral reefs and this impact will remain for years in the area. Areas where the oil spill did not reach are still going to be affected by the fumes and the chemicals in the water.
Over 40 dead dolphins were found washed up on the shore.
Concerns over the impact on the environment and local Mauritian wildlife has been mounting over the past week and has recently erupted in the form of protests in St Louis. Over 40 dead dolphins were found washed up on the shore. Their cause of death has not been investigated but environmental campaigners are demanding an inquiry as they believe it is linked to the oil spill. Oil-spill experts are formulating a plan to ensure that the cleaning does not push chemicals into the sand which could be released in warm weather. The water quality is being constantly monitored for any changes.
The government have been criticised for their response to the spill, as they decided to deliberately sink part of the ship after it split into two.
Mauritian Prime Minister, Mr Jugnauth, and his government are promising an investigation into the accident, but so far, they have shed no light on the incident. This has fuelled protests and created tension in the Mauritian communities as they believe the government could have done more to prevent the spill. They have been criticised for their response to the spill, as they decided to deliberately sink part of the ship after it split into two. Thousands marched through Port Louis on Saturday, yelling for the government to resign. The only action they seem to have taken so far is arresting the Captain of MV Wakashoi.
Other countries have been sent in to assist with the clean up and prevention of further damage. Ocean booms were set up in the waters to contain the spill by French authorities. The United Nations sent a team of experts in oil spills and crisis management. The Mauritian people themselves have been working day and night to prevent the oil reaching the shoreline. In one weekend, 80 kilometres of make-shift ocean booms out of waste from sugar-cane processing have been positioned.
After the island’s worst environmental disaster in years, the protests continue. Despite a 9.4 million pound offering from Japanese shipping company, Mitsui OSK, to compensate for the damage, tensions continue to run high among the Mauritian people.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons
Last modified: 14th September 2020