Eleven months ago, the Japanese oil tanker, MV Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef, offshore of Pointe d’Esny, south of Mauritius. An estimated 1000 tonne of heavy fuel oil was spilled into the sea, in what was called as the worst environmental disaster of Mauritius. Almost a year is going to pass-by and we seek to take a look at the events that followed the disaster.
The oil spill greatly damaged the Marine Protected Area designated as the Second Wetland of International Importance under the ‘Ramsar Convention’ which is renowned for its remarkable coral garden and is home to more than 1,000-year-old brain coral (Lobophyllia sp.), the largest brain coral in the Indian Ocean.
The ecological impact of the oil spill has been severe and as not just the coastline, but coral reefs spanning more than 27 square kilometres of area were destroyed. Not just that, the oil, reportedly, also seeped into the mangroves and the seagrass habitats and destroyed the ecological flora and fauna of Mauritius. A large number of species including the Bojer’s skink, the lesser night gecko and Bouton’s skink were endangered and had to be rescued, fearing complete extinction from the Mauritian islands. Scientific discoveries later reached to the conclusion that die to the experimental nature of the heavy fuel, the residual impact of the oil would remain in the eco-system for a long time and affect Mauritius’ maritime ecology.
The true extent of the ecological disaster would be faced by Mauritius over the next decade and hopefully nature will restore, replenish and regrow in the years to come.