The carcasses of 17 dead dolphins washed up on a Mauritius beach after a Japanese ship struck a coral reef, causing an oil spill.
The ship hit Pointe d’Esny on the island’s eastern shores close to the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve and several tourist beaches.
Initially, the island’s fisheries minister said, “at first glance,” the deaths appeared unconnected to the spill, as at least two of the dolphins had shark bites. Days later, seven more dead dolphins were discovered on a Mauritius beach.
Oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo claimed the dolphins smelled of fuel. He says he expects the situation to worsen over time.
Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization, called on the government to conduct an “urgent investigation” into the spillage.
“This is a deeply sad and alarming day for the people of Mauritius,” Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa’s senior climate and energy campaign manager, said in a statement. “Greenpeace appeals to the authorities to carry out a swift, transparent and public autopsy on the bodies collected.”
The International Maritime Organization said they have no idea of the long term impacts of the VLSFO type of heavy fuel oil that was leaked during the collision. “Because this fuel is so new, research has only just been initiated on its fate and behavior in the environment, particularly over a longer period,” an IMO spokesperson told Forbes.
“In terms of the response related to the release of this fuel, it looks and behaves essentially the same as any other bunker fuel spill. It’s really the longer-term fate and effects that are not yet known.”