- People gathered in the thousands in Mauritius’s capital, Port Louis, to protest the government’s response to a recent oil spill.
- The Japanese-owned freighter M.V. Wakashio crashed into the coral reef barrier off the island’s southeastern coast on July 25 and leaked about 1,000 tons of fuel oil into the sea near ecologically sensitive areas, before breaking in half a few weeks later.
- The stranding of at least 39 dolphins and whales near the site has sparked an outcry, though a link between the Wakashio shipwreck and the beachings has not yet been established.
- In a controversial move, the Mauritian government decided to sink the front half of the ship several kilometers away from the crash site in open waters, which some experts say could have impacted the dolphin and whale populations.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Mauritius on Aug. 29 over the government’s handling of a recent ship grounding that spilled 1,000 tons oil in the seas around the island nation. In what appears to be the latest toll in the incident, dolphins and whales have beached close to where the M.V. Wakashio freighter ran aground and broke up. Thirty-nine of the mammals have beached in the week to Aug. 28. Social media is awash with photos of the stranded animals, including mothers and calves.
At a press conference Sudheer Maudhoo, the Mauritian fisheries, marine resources and shipping minister, called the beachings a “sad coincidence.” Though a link between the deaths and oil contamination has yet to be established, disaffection has swelled in the aftermath of the spill, with protesters taking to the streets of the capital, Port Louis, and wielding an inflatable dolphin with “Inaction” written on it.
The Wakashio struck the coral reef barrier off the country’s southeastern coast on July 25; the damage to its fuel tankers led to a leak on Aug. 6. The fact that the ship lay lodged in the coral reef for more than 10 days before any decisive action by the government has become a sour point for Mauritians demanding answers from the authorities.
“The oil spill became like a culmination of growing frustration in the country. Since we have this new government, there were a series of issues and the Wakashio oil spill was the last straw,” said Mokshanand Sunil Dowarkasing, a former member of parliament who now works with Greenpeace in Mauritius. The vessel lay stranded in the vicinity of at least three sites of ecological significance: Blue Bay Marine Area; Pointe d’Esny, the largest remaining wetland in Mauritius; and the coral isle of Ile aux Aigrettes, which is a nature reserve. Facing mounting pressure from abroad and within the country, the government hastened efforts to pump out the oil that remained on board, even as a ship was at the brink of breaking apart. On Aug. 15, it broke into two, but by then most of the oil on board had been removed. The situation, however, has only grown murkier since.
This article was written by Malavika Vyawahare on 1 September 2020 and originally published on Mongabay. The original article can be accessed here: