WWF Statement on the recent oil spill off the coast of Mauritius | WWF
WWF Statement on the recent oil spill off the coast of Mauritius

Posted on 12 August 2020

The tragic, preventable incident will have immediate and long-term effects on this critical coastal ecosystem, and the communities and businesses that depend on these resources for their livelihoods.
WWF is deeply saddened by the disastrous oil spill off the coast of Mauritius by the MV Wakashio (a Japanese vessel). This tragic, preventable incident will have immediate and long-term effects on this critical coastal ecosystem, and the communities and businesses that depend on these resources for their livelihoods.

The oil spill threatens the coastal areas of Aigrettes Islands in the bay of Mahebourg (Nature Reserve, 27 ha), and the Blue Bay Marine Park. The area is a complex habitat with coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, lagoons, estuaries, and beaches to the southeast of Pointe d'Esny, a Ramsar site since 2011.  

WWF stands in solidarity with the people of Mauritius as they work to contain this spill and restore damaged ecosystems and disrupted livelihoods. This highlights the critical link between healthy marine and coastal ecosystems and human well-being. It also emphasizes the need for a coordinated regional strategy to ensure effective integrated ocean management and disaster response preparedness to help prevent accidents like this in the future.  

This incident is one in a series of recent marine accidents in the Southwestern Indian Ocean (SWIO) region, including a phosphate spill in southern Madagascar in August 2009, and the mass stranding of dolphins in 2008 following underwater seismic sounding by Exxon Mobil in northwestern Madagascar.  

According to WWF's “Reviving the Western Indian Ocean Economy” report published in 2017, the blue economy in Mauritius has a potential GDP value of US$12.6 million pa. The total ocean asset base of the WIO region, including both the “primary assets” (fisheries, mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass) and the “adjacent assets” (productive coastlines and carbon absorption), is at least US$333.8 billion. These economic assets, along with cultural and natural heritage, are under threat by mining, and oil and gas throughout the SWIO region. The Mauritius Government can tap into mechanisms for recompense under the 1992 Fund Convention and International Convention on Oil Pollution; 1990 Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), and the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage to be invested in environmental restoration.

Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, Country Director, WWF Madagascar said: “This oil spill is a severe threat to critical ecological resources, including coral reefs, fish, and other coastal and marine life of the southeast coast of Mauritius. The impact on 2,300 artisanal fishermen and women and the 1.5% of Mauritius’ GDP derived from the fishing industry are devastating.  WWF urges regional cooperation to clean up this oil pollution and recommends that the government of Mauritius takes strong action to get adequate recompense under the 1992 Fund Convention and International Convention on Oil Pollution; 1990 Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), and the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage to be invested in environmental restoration.”