The Mauritius Oil Spill: An Environmental Catastrophe That Could Have Been Much Worse
The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.
As EcoWatch reported earlier this week, a French ship was working with Mauritian authorities and a team from Japan to remove the remaining fuel in the ship's tanks before it broke in two and spilled thousands of tons of fuel into the water. Fortunately, that operation was successful and all but a minimal amount of fuel has been removed from the sinking ship, according to the BBC. That means a spill that's more than twice as damaging has been avoided. Furthermore, nobody died in the accident. The worst has been avoided as Mauritius waits for the ship to break in two.
Al Jazeera noted that the ship also had no cargo so it was not a fully loaded tanker, which would have caused much more damage. This accident has spilled the equivalent of about 7,000 barrels of oil, a tiny fraction of the nearly 3.2 million barrels spilled by the Deepwater Horizon accident.
While that is a spot of good news, the environmental impact of what has been spilled is just coming into focus. The waters of Blue Bay Marine Park, a habitat for rare marine life and a wetlands designated as a site of international importance by an international convention on wetlands, have been devastated, according to Reuters.
"This oil spill occurred in one of, if not the most, sensitive areas in Mauritius," oceanographer and environmental engineer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo told Reuters by telephone from the island, where he was surveying the disaster. "We are talking of decades to recover from this damage, and some of it may never recover."
The Ursa Space Systems tweeted satellite imagery from a Finnish satellite that showed the extent of the oil slick earlier this week. "Our team estimates the size of the slick is nearly 10x larger than on Aug 6," the tweet reads.
Ursa's analysis using @iceyefi imagery reveals a rapid expansion of the oil slick leaking from bulk carrier MV Waka… https://t.co/oyEFWaPku6— Ursa Space Systems (@Ursa Space Systems)1597250160.0
"Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius's economy, food security and health," said Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa's senior climate and energy campaign manager, as Al Jazeera reported.
Additionally, there are reports of people breathing oil vapor, according to the BBC.
Reuters noted that the area around Mauritius will feel a slow, insidious impact, as the corals and fish become the first to die off. That means the remaining corals will be increasingly vulnerable to marine heat waves, which are becoming more frequent and more extreme as the climate crisis unfolds.
"If things continue to go the way they are the future prospects for coral reefs look very, very bleak indeed," said Alex Rogers, a visiting professor at Oxford University, to Reuters. Blue Bay Marine Park is home to 38 unique species of coral.
The oil will also seep into the sediment around the roots of mangrove trees and could choke out mollusks, crabs and fish eggs, said Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation at the University of Exeter in Britain, who spoke to Reuters.
"It's very hard to remove once it's sunk into the sediment," Roberts said. "Trees can become sick and die."
Additionally, the sea grasses around the island will be at risk and the fate of the critically endangered Pink Pigeon is in jeopardy. The sea grasses play a vital role in protecting the coastline from waves, according to Reuters.
This spill is also a warning shot for the increasingly treacherous waters around the Arctic, which is seeing an increase in ice melt. That means the waters are becoming more navigable, but sea ice that has broken off from ice shelves threaten the increased tanker traffic, according to the Clean Arctic Alliance (CAA), as Al Jazeera reported.
"The spill in Mauritius demonstrates the limitations of response operations to cope with heavy fuel oil spills even in relatively favorable conditions," said Dave Walsh of the CAA to Al Jazeera.
"It underlines the need for the shipping industry to move away from powering vessels with fuels which pollute the air when they are burned and the ocean when there is an accident."
Ships carrying heavy fuel are already banned from Antarctica's waters, but no ban exists in the Arctic.
"What has happened in Mauritius is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of unacceptable behavior by an industry that routinely puts commercial considerations ahead of safety and the environment," said Walsh to Al Jazeera. "Put simply, the shipping industry must find a way towards an exit from the age of dirty fossil fuel-powered shipping."
- 10 Years After Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Threat of Disaster ... ›
- Oil Spill Disasters: How to Limit Environmental Damage - EcoWatch ›
- These Danish Companies Plan to Decarbonize Transportation ... ›
- Massive Oil Spill Turns Brazil's Beaches Black, Kills Marine Life ... ›
- Shipping Industry Could Replace Diesel Fuel With Ammonia to ... ›
- Japanese Tanker Off Mauritius Splits in Two - EcoWatch ›
- Mauritius Arrests Captain of Ship Behind Devastating Oil Spill - EcoWatch ›
- 17 Dead Dolphins Wash Ashore in Mauritius Near Oil Spill - EcoWatch ›
- Protesters March Against Oil Spill 'Incompetence' in Mauritius as More Dead Dolphins Wash Ashore - EcoWatch ›
- Israeli Oil Spill Is a 'Severe Ecological Disaster’ ›
By Kimberly Nicole Pope
During this year's Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.
- 16 Essential Books About Environmental Justice, Racism and ... ›
- 10 Best Books On Climate Change, According to Activists - EcoWatch ›
- 14 Inspiring New Environmental Books to Read During the ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Brett Wilkins
While some mainstream environmental organizations welcomed Tuesday's introduction of the CLEAN Future Act in the House of Representatives, progressive green groups warned that the bill falls far short of what's needed to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis—an existential threat they say calls for bolder action like the Green New Deal.
<div id="25965" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6116a1c2b1b913ad51c3ea576f2e196c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366827205427425289" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">BREAKING: Rep @FrankPallone just released his CLEAN Future Act — which he claims to be an ambitious bill to combat… https://t.co/M7nR0es196</div> — Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))<a href="https://twitter.com/foe_us/statuses/1366827205427425289">1614711974.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="189f0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa31bacec80d88b49730e8591de5d26d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366863402912657416" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The CLEAN Future Act "fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and… https://t.co/yREn6Qx9tn</div> — Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)<a href="https://twitter.com/foodandwater/statuses/1366863402912657416">1614720605.0</a></blockquote></div>
- Biden Plans to Fight Climate Change in a New Way - EcoWatch ›
- Bipartisan Climate Bill Highlights Forest Restoration, Conservation ... ›
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
- Offshore Wind Power Is Ready to Boom. Here's What That Means for ... ›
- American Skyscrapers Kill an Estimated 600 Million Migratory Birds ... ›
Kentucky is coping with historic flooding after a weekend of record-breaking rainfall, enduring water rescues, evacuations and emergency declarations.