A protest march will be held today in Mahebourg to highlight the Mauritius government’s inaction following a disastrous oil spill off the island’s southeastern coast.
The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK—the world’s second-largest shipping company—ran aground after colliding with a protected coral reef on July 25. The resultant discharge of approximately 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil has significantly damaged the marine ecosystem of Mahebourg lagoon. Mauritians took to the streets en masse after the government responded lethargically to the crisis and hesitated to release information transparently. Images of dolphin and whale carcasses on the beaches have also invigorated the Mauritian diaspora to clamour for justice—likely in the form of a $500 million bill to the vessel’s insurers.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi extended assistance in the form of disaster relief teams and $34 million in reconstructive aid. Japan’s assistance in ensuring long-term maritime safety standards and support for local fishing communities will ameliorate some of the damage and potentially improve Japan-Mauritius strategic relations in the long-term. However, the lagoon’s biodiversity may have taken an irreversible hit. While far from the biggest oil spill seen, the toxic hydrocarbons from the spillage are likely to have caused severe coral bleaching, destroying many species of fish and will likely erode the allure of Mauritius’ coral-dependent tourism.
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