Few news stories have saddened me more in recent days than the horrendous oil spill from a Japanese owned ship, the MV Wakashio which ran aground at Pointe d’Esny in late July in south east Mauritius.
Mauritius is a country that I have visited many times over the past few years and this area is a biodiversity hotspot with a high concentration of plants and animals unique to the region.
Although ultimately the amount of oil spilled is relatively low compared to some of the larger worldwide spills in recent years sadly the impact and destruction this could have on two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the beautiful Blue Bay Marine Park reserve is of major concern.
The stunning turquoise waters of the blue lagoon outside the coastal village of Mahébourg in Mauritius, are now stained and the area of Pointe D’ Esny and the island of Ile-aux-Aigrettes has been seriously affected.
Marine life threatened…
The Mauritian marine environment is home to 1,700 species including almost 800 types of fish, 17 kinds of marine mammals and two species of turtles. As well as this, the coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves ensure that the Mauritian waters are incredibility rich in biodiversity. The Ile Aux Aigrettes, which I visited a couple of years ago, is also home to the critically endangered Pink Pigeon (pictured) and this will surely put this beautiful bird in greater jeopardy.
A huge clean-up operation has been launched from the shore with many local people volunteering to help with booms made from straw and even human hair. Thankfully in recent days much of the remaining oil on board has been pumped away averting an even greater crisis however there are now reports of dead fish, sea birds unable to take flight due to being covered in oil and there are reports of people breathing in oil vapor.
As if the impact of Covid 19 on tourism to the island was not enough sadly the Mauritius oil spill has brought another huge challenge for the island to overcome. The people of Mauritius and this Indian Ocean island will recover but it will take time, even years for the marine system to return to normal.
Environmental issues must come first…
For this reason and for so many others around the world we need accountability and these events must surely demand strong penalties as these spills are no longer isolated incidents and are part of a pattern of unacceptable behaviour from an industry that routinely puts commercial considerations ahead of safety and the environment.