As Greenpeace stated on Friday, 39 dead dolphins and 3 whales washed ashore after the oil spill caused by a Japanese ship last month in Mauritius. This is very concerning news for Mauritius, who became famous for its stunning scenery and its vivid and abundant marine life. It’s an ecological disaster for the African territory that depends entirely on tourism and fishing.
After declaring a “state of environmental emergency,” the Indian Ocean island is facing sudden mammal deaths, considered to be caused by the recent oil spill. And this proves again that the spill might be disastrous for Mauritius.
Currently, there’s an urgent investigation put in place to establish if the mammals were indeed killed by the major oil spill. Greenpeace has stated that the mammal deaths could be caused by stress and the fact that they hadn’t eaten, but there were oil traces on their dead bodies.
“We can’t rule out the Wakashio completely,” said Jacqueline Sauzier, who heads the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society. “We can rule out the part which is close to shore but not the one that has been sunk.”
She also explained that the deaths were probably linked to the mechanical process of sinking the bow rather than the oil spill itself.
“This is a deeply sad and alarming day for the people of Mauritius and for its singular biodiversity,” explained Happy Khambule, a senior climate, and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace Africa, in a statement on Wednesday.
The African island is the home to more than 16,800 square kilometers (6,500 square miles) of water and 1,700 marine species that made Mauritius a marine paradise. The main tourist attraction in the area is whale-watching and dolphin encounters.
Mauritians are even more terrified now then they were before, as three sailors have died on Monday and one went missing. The accident happened while eight men went on a tugboat and helped to clear the major oil spill. The other four men that were on that boat have been rescued by helicopter and taken to shore, after the boat collided with a barge in bad weather, states Mahend Gungapersad, a member of parliament for the opposition Labour Party, told Reuters news agency.
“This incident is going to add to the prevailing anger,” Gungapersad said. “We had the oil spill, then we had the deaths of the dolphins and now two people who have been killed.”
“We are doing everything we can to locate them, with all our means and with the help of fishermen in the area,” the Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said on Tuesday. He added that Greenpeace had requested the authorities to “carry out a swift, transparent and public autopsy on the bodies collected.”
However, we still have to wait several days before the results will be available, but Mauritians and ecologists all over the world are very angry because they previously warned the state officials that the oil spill will generate long-term consequences on the marine ecosystem.
“For us, the mangrove area, the lagoon with the coral reef, the seagrass, and the impact on the sand bed are all matters of concern,” Sauzier said.
Moreover, as a result of the oil spill, many other species might be in danger. For instance, hawksbill and green turtles nest on the island’s beaches. With nesting season being just two months away, no one knows what will happen with the ship’s stern which is still on the coral barrier. More damage can be done if state officials don’t take the necessary actions.
The deaths have sparked fears about the fate of other species as well. It is unclear what will happen to the ship’s stern, which is still on the coral barrier. If the structure disintegrates on the coral reef, it could do more damage.