Thousands of people have protested in the capital of Mauritius over the government’s handling of an oil spill from a grounded Japanese ship and the alarming discovery of dozens of dead dolphins in recent days.
- At least 39 dead dolphins have washed ashore
- Experts fear chemicals from the oil spill may be to blame
- A Japanese ship struck a coral reef offshore causing the spill last month
The frustrated residents marched peacefully through Port Louis a month after the ship struck a coral reef offshore and later cracked and spilled around 1,000 tons of fuel oil into fragile marine areas.
Authorities on Friday said at least 39 dead dolphins have washed ashore but it is not yet clear what killed them.
Some experts fear the chemicals in the fuel are to blame.
“Something that is also concerning is that we don’t know the possible long-term effects. The oil is a new low-sulphur fuel oil that is being introduced to reduce air pollution,” Jacqueline Sauzier with the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society told the journal Nature this week.
Residents and environmentalists have demanded investigations into why the MV Wakashio strayed miles off course.
Its captain and first officer have been arrested and charged with “endangering safe navigation.”
The Indian Ocean island nation depends heavily on tourism, and the spill has been a severe blow on top of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited international travel.
“It’s clear we are at a turning point in the history of our country,” a commentary in the Le Mauricien newspaper said.
The ship ran aground on July 25 and began leaking fuel into the Mahebourg Lagoon on August 6, fouling a protected wetlands area and a small island that was a bird and wildlife sanctuary.
Thousands of civilian volunteers worked for days to try to minimise the damage, creating makeshift oil barriers by stuffing fabric bags with sugarcane leaves and empty plastic bottles to keep them afloat.
Environmental workers carefully ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants to shore, plucking some trapped seabirds out of the goo.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth blamed bad weather for the Government’s slow response to the ship’s grounding.
Experts from ship owner Nagashiki Shipping, France and the United Nations have since arrived at the scene.
The ship’s remaining fuel was pumped out before the vessel finally split in two.