Dolphin carcasses are washing up on Mauritius after the MV Wakashio was sunk off its coast following a devastating oil spill that threatens the island’s numerous critically endangered species and ecotourism industry.
The images, provided to Real Press by Greenpeace, were filmed in Mauritius, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Africa, after a large ship called the MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef there on 25th July before leaking oil on 6th August, threatening the fragile local ecosystem comprised of endemic and critically endangered species.
The ship then broke in two and the bow of the vessel has since been towed out to sea and scuttled.
Greenpeace and other groups had expressed grave concern that the vessel would be sunk in the middle of a whale nursery in the middle of their migratory season.
Former Greenpeace executive Sunil Dowarkasing, who has functioned as the organisation’s informal representative on the island since the stranding of MV Wakashio, suggested that it would have been better to tow the ship to a shipyard where it could be scrapped.
Mr Dowarkasing said that the plan to simply sink such a huge ship 8.5 nautical miles off the shore at a depth of 2,000 feet, had caused “a lot of outcry” in the local population.
But the Mauritian National Crisis Committee stated that the location they had settled on was 13.8 nautical miles from the coast and at a depth of 3,180 metres (10,433 feet). This means the first location they had picked was not chosen, although details regarding the Wakashio’s final resting place are otherwise sparse.
The MV Wakashio measured nearly 300 metres (984 feet) and weighed 100,000 tonnes, placing it in the largest ‘Capesize’ category. It had been transporting over 4,000 tonnes of fuel and at least 1,000 tonnes were spilt into the sea just off the coast of Mauritius, endangering protected wildlife on the nearby small island of Ile aux Aigrettes.
According to Greenpeace, at least four dolphins have since washed up dead on the shores of Mauritius, with various media outlets reporting that the number could be as high as 27.
Tal Harris, International Communications Coordinator at Greenpeace Africa, told Real Press: “The number we used is a minimal estimate.”
He added: “It is very likely that there are more who have died and we expect more to be found dead and ailing in the coming days, including sperm whales and porpoises, which Greenpeace received reports have also been seen pushed over the coasts – possibly for having swallowed hydrocarbons.”
Officials are still investigating the cause of death, but French media report a number of dolphins washed up with their mouths full of oil.
Dr Vikash Tatayah, Conservation Director at the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF), and his colleagues are virtually in a race against time to protect “critically endangered” species facing “extinction” because of the oil spill, a moved Mr Tatayah told Real Press in an exclusive interview.
Dr Tatayah, 47, who is a native of Mauritius and has a PhD in seabird biology, told Real Press that damages caused by the spill amount to an “ecological disaster”.
He said that the MWF had spent “nearly 40 years working on these islands and restoring these islands and it is heartbreaking to the hundreds of people that have worked, most of the time volunteered, months and years of their lives to restore these species and these ecosystems.”
Locals have organised a citizens’ march for this Saturday (29th August) to protest how the crisis has been handled, with events organised all over the planet. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people are expected to show up for the march in Mauritius alone.
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