Mauritius oil spill threatens wildlife and jobs

More than 1,000 tonnes of oil have leaked into the ocean around Mauritius after a Japanese oil tanker ran aground in July, with a 27 square kilometre oil slick threatening local ecosystems.

Pointe d'Esny Mauritius
Pointe d'Esny Mauritius

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Green World

A Japanese oil tanker that ran aground on a coral reef off the coast of Mauritius has leaked hundreds of tonnes of oil into the sea around the island nation, threatening wildlife and the livelihoods of local people.

The MV Wakashio oil tanker ran aground at Pointe d’Esny, a mangrove wildlife sanctuary, on 25 July, and authorities say that it has now broken in two.

Around 1,000 tonnes of oil has leaked into the water around Pointe d’Esny, with 3,000 tonnes of oil having been pumped out and transferred to shore and to another ship owned by Nagashiki Shipping, the firm responsible for the spillage.

Floating booms have been put in place to intercept any more oil leaking out, while local coastal communities have been constructing makeshift booms to protect the coastline.

Despite efforts to contain the spill, the oil spill has extended to an estimated 27 square kilometres.

Sites of importance for the protection of wildlife are under threat from the spill, including the Blue Bay Marine Park, the mangrove forest at Pointe d’Esny and the Ile aux Aigrettes, among others.

These areas contain protected species of coral, animals, birds and trees, all of which are now threatened by the oil spill.

Negative impacts on these coastal environments threaten these endangered species, as well as the economy and livelihoods of communities that rely on the marine environment.

The Mauritian Government has stated that it intends to seek compensation from Nagashiki Shipping, which has said it will respond to requests for compensation.

Commenting on the spill, Sunil Dowarkasing, a former global strategist at Greenpeace, said: “The owners of the ship are the number one culprit for this spill and the authorities of Mauritius must also carry blame for their inaction. 

“The ship company has made a commitment to stop using this route through Mauritian waters as a recognition of the damages caused and future risks. This passage must be abandoned in order to ensure protection for the island. Ultimately, we believe that the Mauritian government should immediately initiate a review of separate transport shipping lanes to stop ‘innocent passage’ through Mauritian waters.”