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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
Oil spills, such as the one in Mauritius in August 2020, could soon be among the ecological crimes considered ecocide. - / AFP / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

An expert panel of top international and environmental lawyers have begun working this month on a legal definition of "ecocide" with the goal of making mass ecological damage an enforceable international crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Celebrates Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week, on Aug. 14, 2020. Michigan EGLE / YouTube

Enbridge's aging Line 5 pipeline may finally be forced into retirement.

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Avocado

Increased consumer interest in sustainability has largely driven the expansion of new organic product lines. It's this combination of consumer consciousness and evolved eco-friendly products that has people searching for the best organic mattress.

But there are many brands in this space. We wanted to take a closer look at the Avocado mattress and explore what makes it such a popular pick in the eco-market.

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Coast Guard members work to clean an oil spill impacting Delaware beaches. U.S. Coast Guard District 5

Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up a mysterious oil spill that has spread to 11 miles of Delaware coastline.

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International Maritime Organization workers in hazmat suits stand in surf near the wreck of the MV Wakashio on August 13, 2020. imo.un / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Roshan Rajroop, Melita Steele and Hisayo Takada

Oil spills make visible the huge price being paid by the environment, wildlife and human communities for our reliance on fossil fuels. They are a harsh demonstration of the fragility of our oceans. They are a sad reminder of how urgent it is that we end our addiction to fossil fuels and make the transition to alternative renewable energy sources.

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A Japanese ship that ran aground on a coral reef off Mauritius may have changed course to get a mobile data signal for a birthday celebration on board. imo.un / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

A Japanese ship that wrecked off the coast of Mauritius in July and sparked one of the worst environmental disasters in the country's history may have run aground because of birthday celebrations on board at the time.

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A man scoops leaked oil from the Japanese-owned MV Wakashio that ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of Mauritius on August 8, 2020. Jean Aurelio Prudence / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

By Seerat Chabba

Mauritius has asked Japan to pay close to 3.6 billion yen (€28.5 billion, $34 million) in order to support local fishermen whose livelihoods were adversely impacted by an oil leak last month, according to a Mauritian government document accessed by Japanese news agency Kyodo News.

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People protest against the government's response to the oil spill disaster in front of the prime minister's office in Port Louis, Mauritius on Aug. 29, 2020. FABIEN DUBESSAY / AFP via Getty Images

Protestors filled the streets of Mauritius's capital city, Port Louis, over the weekend to demand resignations of officials and an investigation into the oil spill that has jeopardized the future health of the country's marine reserves, according to Reuters. The protests were catalyzed by more than a dozen dead dolphins with traces of oil washing up on Mauritian beaches.

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At least 17 dead dolphins washed up on Mauritius' beaches Wednesday, raising questions about what effect the oil spilled from the Japanese cargo tanker MV Wakashio, which ran aground on July 25, is having on marine life surrounding the Indian Ocean island-nation, according to Reuters.

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The captain of the vessel behind a devastating Mauritius oil spill left court after being charged Tuesday. RISHI ETWAROO / L'Express Maurice / AFP via Getty Images

The captain of the ship that ran aground off Mauritius and caused an environmental crisis when oil began leaking close to the island nation's unique marine ecosystems was arrested, both police and the captain's lawyer said on Tuesday.

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The MV Wakashio is seen on August 15, 2020 after the ship's mid-section broke in two, three weeks after running aground off the coast of southeast Mauritius. Stringer / AFP / Getty Images

The Japanese cargo ship that hit a coral reef near Mauritius and spilled thousands of metric tons of fuel into the island nation's turquoise waters split in two over the weekend, The Guardian reported.

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A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

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.

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An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.