This satellite image provided by 2020 Maxar Technologies on Tuesday Aug. 18, 2020, showing an aerial view of the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius. Officials say the grounded Japanese ship that leaked tons of oil near protected areas off the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, has split apart with remaining fuel seen spreading into the turquoise waters. (2020 Maxar Technologies via AP)

Thousands march in Mauritius over dead dolphins, oil spill

Authorities on Friday said at least 39 dead dolphins have washed ashore

JOHANNESBURG — Honking and drumming, tens of thousands of people protested Saturday in Mauritius over the government’s slow response to an oil spill from a grounded Japanese ship and the alarming discovery of dozens of dead dolphins in recent days.

The protesters displayed signs such as “You have no shame” and “I’ve seen better Cabinets at IKEA.” “Inaction,” one protester scrawled on an inflatable dolphin held above the crowd.

They marched peacefully through the capital, Port Louis, a month after the ship struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island nation. It later cracked under the pounding surf and spilled around 1,000 tons of fuel oil into fragile marine areas.

“It’s clear we are at a turning point in the history of our country,” a commentary in the Le Mauricien newspaper said. Other protests were reported outside the Mauritius High Commission in London and in Paris and Perth, Australia.

Addressing the crowd in Port Louis, some speakers called for top officials to step down. There was no immediate government comment.

“I’d be surprised if it’s not close to 100,000” people who attended the march, local writer Khalil Cassimally said. Public demonstrations aren’t common in Mauritius, but “one of the things that really binds people together is the sea,” he said. “It’s one of the jewels of this country, and everyone feels very passionately about this.”

Another protest is planned on Sept. 12 in Mahebourg, one of the most affected coastal villages, Cassimally said.

Mauritius depends heavily on tourism, and the spill has been a severe blow on top of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited international travel.

Authorities on Friday said at least 39 dead dolphins have washed ashore but it’s not yet clear what killed them. The government said no fuel oil was found in two necropsies so far and called the deaths a “sad coincidence.”

Civil society groups should be present as necropsies continue, and independent experts should give a second opinion, local environmental group Eco-Sud said Friday.

Some experts fear water-soluble chemicals in the fuel are to blame.

“Something that is also concerning is that we don’t know the possible long-term effects. The oil is a new low-sulfur fuel oil that is being introduced to reduce air pollution,” Jacqueline Sauzier with the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society told the journal Nature this week. “This is the first time that type of oil has spilled, so there have been no long-term studies on the impacts.”

Residents and environmentalists have demanded investigations into why the MV Wakashio strayed miles off course. Its captain and first officer have been arrested and charged with “endangering safe navigation.”

The ship ran aground on July 25 and began leaking fuel Aug. 6 into the Mahebourg Lagoon, fouling a protected wetlands area and a small island that was a bird and wildlife sanctuary.

Thousands of civilian volunteers worked for days to try to minimize the damage, creating makeshift oil barriers by stuffing fabric bags with sugar cane leaves and empty plastic bottles to keep them afloat. Environmental workers carefully ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants to shore, plucking some trapped seabirds out of the goo.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth blamed bad weather for the government’s slow response. Experts from ship owner Nagashiki Shipping, France and the United Nations have since arrived at the scene, and multiple investigations are underway.

The ship’s remaining fuel was pumped out before the vessel finally split in two.

Cara Anna, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canada’s Kennedy to yesterday’s man: former PM John Turner dead at 91

Politicians and other public figures immediately began sharing memories

Community art project will thank front line workers

Red Deerians are painting hearts to say thank you to frontline workers.… Continue reading

Vaping persists amongst Canadian youth

New survey into vaping habits of youth

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

The 2020 Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., will be held as a special hybrid event

New tools, ideas needed to speed up housing strategy funding, CMHC president says

Slow turnaround time on some of its national housing strategy programs

Letter containing ricin sent to White House may have come from Canada: RCMP

The letter contained ricin, a toxic substance found naturally in castor beans

Nunavut reports first confirmed COVID-19 cases, saying both are mine workers

The territory says at this time, there is no evidence of transmission within site

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

The pandemic has shown how heavily Canada relies on migrant and undocumented workers

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

Former prime minister John Turner dead at 91

TORONTO — Former prime minister John Turner, whose odyssey from a “Liberal… Continue reading

Hay’s Daze: Happy to be left out of the picture

Talk about being out of the loop. Head in the sand. Uninformed,… Continue reading

Most Read