Thousands protest in Mauritius to demand investigation into oil spill

More than 100,000 people have taken to the streets in Mauritius’ capital, Port Louis, to demand an investigation into an oil spill caused by a Japanese-owned cargo ship ramming into coral reefs.

The ship crashed into the coral reef near Pointe d’Esny on the south east coast of the Mauritian island on 25 July. Soon after it began to leak at least 1,000 tonnes of oil, wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems along the coastline.

UN satellites identified 30 kilometres of shoreline along the coast of Mauritius to have been heavily affected by oil leaked from the ship. This spill will continue to cause substantial damage to the island’s ecosystem and local livelihoods. Oil has already been absorbed by extensive mangrove roots that are critical fish spawning grounds.

“We do not trust the government”

At least 40 dolphins and whales washed up dead on the shore in the days following the spill. And environmental workers ferried dozens of tortoises and rare plants to shore, rescuing trapped seabirds as they went.

Vets paid by the government-run Albion Fisheries Research Centre examined two of the dead bodies, which they claim showed signs of injury but no trace of oil in their bodies.

However, Fabiola Monty, an environmental scientist, said: “We do not trust the government and the diluted information they’ve been feeding us regarding the management and responses to the oil spill.”

Eco-Sud, a local environmental group said that civil society representatives should be present during the autopsies and that independent specialists should be called upon for second opinions.

The government has said it will carry out autopsies on all of the dolphins and has set up a commission to look into the spill. Two investigations are being carried out: one by the police on the crew’s responsibilities and one by a senior shipping ministry official on what happened to the ship.

Japan’s government “on the defensive”

Friends of the Earth Japan and Greenpeace are among a number of environmental organisations that say parties ultimately responsible are not doing enough to address the spillage.

“The Japanese government seems to be on the defensive, perhaps due to fears of damages claims,” said Kanna Mitsuta, Friends of the Earth’s executive director in Japan.

“It may not be legally responsible for the disaster, as the freighter was Panamanian-flagged, but it is effectively a Japanese one, as it was operated and owned by Japanese shipping companies,” she said.

Another protest is being planned on 12 September in Mahebourg, one of the coastal villages in Mauritius that has been most affected by the oil spill.

Take Action

Local organisations and the Mauritian people are working tirelessly with the authorities to remove the oil from the environment.

But there are ways you can help from afar. You can help accelerate the clean up by donating and sharing information about the spill.

Other environmental organisations you can donate to include the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and Greenpeace Africa.

For information on how you can get involved in the last great chance to protect the planet, explore the icons below:

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