Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Mauritius’ First Major Oil Spill Poses Environmental Crisis

Mauritius’ First Major Oil Spill Poses Environmental Crisis
Bystanders watch the MV Wakashio bulk carrier from which oil is leaking near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius, on August 6, 2020. Photo by Dev Ramkhelawon / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, renowned for its coral reefs, is facing an unprecedented ecological catastrophe after a tanker ran aground offshore and began leaking oil.

The 984-foot MV Wakashio ran aground on July 25 and began to break up due to rough waters, The Guardian reported. It contained about 220.5 tons of diesel fuel and 4,189 tons of bunker fuel.

"We are in an environmental crisis situation," Mauritius' environment minister Kavy Ramano said according to The Guardian.

The environment ministry announced the oil spill on Thursday, according to an AFP story published by Al Jazeera. The ship ran aground at Pointe d'Esny off the southeast of Mauritius, which is considered a "wetland of international importance" by the Ramsar Convention. Mauritius depends on its oceans for fish and tourism. It is also a major exporter of tuna, BBC News reported.

"This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind, and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem," Fishing Minister Sudheer Maudhoo said, AFP reported.

Mauritius is currently receiving help from the French island of Reunion and has asked other international and regional organizations to assist, Bloomberg reported.

The MV Wakashio sails under a Panamanian flag but is owned by the Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping, The Guardian reported. All crew members were evacuated safely.

Nagashiki Shipping said that rough weather had caused the spill and made cleanup more difficult.

"Due to bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tanker has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea," the company told Bloomberg by email. "In view of poor sea conditions salvage efforts are currently on hold."

A floating barrier has been placed around the ship to contain the oil.

Oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo said this was the first time Mauritius had seen such a devastating oil spill.

"It may have caused irreversible environmental damage to the southeastern coast of Mauritius," Kauppaymuthoo told Bloomberg.

Greenpeace Africa, meanwhile, said the incident demonstrated another example of the dangers of using and transporting fossil fuels.


"There is no guaranteed safe way to extract, transport and store fossil fuel products. This oil leak is not a twist of fate, but the choice of our twisted addiction to fossil fuels. We must react by accelerating our withdrawal from fossil fuels," Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager Happy Khambule said in a statement Friday. "Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the climate crisis, as well as devastating oceans and biodiversity and threatening local livelihoods around some of Africa's most precious lagoons."

Recycling and general waste plastic wheelie bins awaiting collection for disposal in Newport, Rhode Island. Tim Graham / Getty Images

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. According to The National Museum of American History, this popular slogan, with its iconic three arrows forming a triangle, embodied a national call to action to save the environment in the 1970s. In that same decade, the first Earth Day happened, the EPA was formed and Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, encouraging recycling and conservation of resources, Enviro Inc. reported.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The coal-fired Huaneng Power Plant in Huai 'an City, Jiangsu Province, China on Sept. 13, 2020. Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
A grizzly bear killed an outdoor guide in a rare attack near Yellowstone Park. William Campbell / Corbis / Getty Images

A backcountry guide has died after being mauled by a grizzly bear near Yellowstone National Park.

Read More Show Less
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) re-introduces the Green New Deal in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2021. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."

Read More Show Less
Offshore oil and gas drillers have left more than 18,000 miles of pipelines at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.

Read More Show Less