Late in the month of July, the ship known as MV Wakashio ran aground near Mauritius, causing nearly 1,000 metric tons of oil to leak into the surrounding waters of the Indian Ocean. This alone led to catastrophic effects on the surrounding area and to make matters worse, new cracks have recently been found along the ship’s exterior. Normally, a ship running aground wouldn’t lead to more than a potential dive site as it drifted to the seafloor to become a haven for nature. However, with this ship carrying both diesel oil and Very Low Sulphur Fuel oil, the consequences of the entire ship collapsing into the ocean would be devastating.
The photos that have emerged from the wreck are disturbing and even eerily reminiscent, as not much time has passed since the last major oil disaster. There were 137 oil spills in the US alone throughout the course of 2018 and prior to that, in 2010, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon became the biggest oil spill disaster to happen in US territory. One decade later, the effects are still being felt from the leak, which sent oil flowing over 2,000 kilometers of coastline along the Gulf. While BP has committed both time, effort, and resources to help restore the Gulf and its ecosystem and oil rig standards have improved since, oil spills continue to happen, setting off a downward chain of events for the environment.
For those on the shores of Mauritius, all they can do is watch as oil continues to flow in the Indian Ocean.
Who, And What, Is Being Affected?
The biggest problem Mauritius is facing is the proximity of the oil leak in regard to two of its protected marine ecosystems, as well as the Blue Bay Marine Park. Not only could this have unprecedented effects along the shoreline of these ecosystems, but it could permanently alter marine life as it exists currently. So many have watched helpless animals being dragged from the sludge of previous oil spills and now, those which called Mauritius their home are facing the same fate, should nothing be done to stop it. These wildlife preserves are not the only nearby risk – the ship is also leaking near tourist beaches as well as mangrove plantations, emerging as a threat to the country’s tourism and plant life as well.
The conservation director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Vikash Tatayah, has issued a statement that teams are working hard to rescue wildlife and plant life from the nearby island of Ile aux Aigrettes, according to CNN. Tatayah was quoted, saying, “We actually removed thousands of plants that were in the nursery and we have moved fruit bats that were captive on the island. We’ve also taken off a small number of threatened birds.” While these teams work round the clock to save those dwelling on the shore, volunteers and teams at sea are still trying to find a way to save the ship before it cracks in half, and time is of the essence.
Oil has also reached the Mahebourg Lagoon, which was previously known for pristine waters, much of which is due to the conservation efforts that have been ongoing there for nearly two decades. Now, with oil threatening to harm more than just the lagoon, the efforts have been reversed and wildlife, as well as marine life, are facing the devastating effects of losing their home. Prior to the oil spill, coral and marine life specific to the area had slowly started coming back.
The Future Of Mauritius
With the oil spill still being so recent and the amount of oil that has yet to enter the water, experts say it is unclear to know what the full extent of the damage will look like. It’s confirmed that there will be severe ecological effects, but it’s uncertain of what these will look like for the time being. It has also been confirmed that marine life won’t be the only affected area of this spill – local fishermen and residents are also taking a hit. Those who work in the tourism industry, who have already felt the effects from a global pandemic, are also outraged that business has once again encountered a roadblock.
France has announced that it has deployed teams and equipment to help with the cleanup, as well as Japan, who is sending a team from Japan Disaster Relief. As of now, the weather has held out steady enough that the ship has yet to falter, but whether or not that continues to be the case remains to be seen in the coming weeks.
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First published here: thetravel.com