A Japanese oil tanker ship, MV Wakashio, had spilt significant amount of crude oil after hitting a reef near the Blue Bay Marine Park of Mauritius on July 25. The ship is owned by Nagashiki Shipping Company and operated by Mitsui OSK Line. Some experts are speculating that the shipping company will be fined around 5 billion yen for this natural disaster.
Around 1,000 metric tons of oil has leaked, with 500 metric tons salvaged and some 2,500 metric tons remaining in the water. The affected area is known for its superb corals and diverse species of fish. Experts have warned that the unprecedented damage caused to the fragile coastal ecosystem of Mauritius will likely also impact its economy. Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, said,
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.
Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared a state of emergency. The country has also appealed to the UN for urgent aid. The Prime Minister thanked France for sending a naval vessel, military aircraft and technical experts from the nearby French island of Reunion, to assist with the disaster.
Residents of Mauritius are doing their best to clean up the oil but bad weather made it difficult for them. They were using straw and sugar cane leaves filled sacks to absorb oil from the water. But now they opt for human hair for making a better absorbent. Romina Tello, founder of eco-tourism agency Mauritius Conscious, told Reuters,
Hair absorbs oil but not water. There's been a big campaign around the island to get the hair. It is really moving - everyone is doing what we can. It breaks our hearts to see the damage.
Satellite images showed the dark spill spreading in waters near wetlands the government called "very sensitive." Wildlife workers and volunteers already gathered baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill and took them to the mainland. In a press release Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd. said,
Due to the bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tank of the vessel has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea. Nagashiki Shipping takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and will take every effort with partner agencies and contractors to protect the marine environment and prevent further pollution.