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Oil leak is threatening nature and local people's health, Mauritius


Mauritius is an African Island over 1,200 miles off Africa’s eastern coast. It is inhabited by 1.3 million people. The country depends crucially on its seas for food and for tourism, boasting some of the finest coral reefs in the world.

On July 25th 2020, Japanese-owned (but Panama-flagged) bulk carrier named Wakashio operated by Mitsui OSK Lines and owned by Nagashiki Shipping, ran aground on a coral reef near Pointe d'Esny in Mauritius and listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands because of its high biodiversity.  

Nearly 4,000 tons (3800 tons specifically) of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel on board started to be leaked into the Mauritius pristine waters [1,2]

Some days later, the government of Mauritius declared a "state of environmental emergency" [2]. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth says the spill "represents a danger" for the country of 1.3 million people that relies heavily on tourism [2]. 

According to Greenpeace, "The current oil spill on the reef near Pointe d'Esny on the south-east coast of the Mauritian island is likely one of the most terrible ecological crises ever seen on the small island country" [6]

Regarding International aid, Japan dispatched a six-member team to assist. France sent more than 20 tonnes of technical equipment, such as oil containment booms, pumping equipment and protective gear, also technical advisors from the nearby Île de la Réunion, the French Indian Ocean territory [1,8]

Ecologists fear the ship could break up, which would cause an even greater leak and inflict potentially catastrophic damage on the island's coastline.  It was later reported that 2,500 tons had been pumped out. The ship broke into two parts by August 15th. The information about the ecological disaster is still coming in by mid-August 2020. 

A clean-up operation conformed by many local volunteers is underway [8]. Compared to other large spills by oil tankers of hundreds of thousands of tons, this was a small one, but the local environment is ecologically priceless and socially very sensitive.

In June 2021, Mitsui OSK Lines created a philanthropic trust to work on various environmental and societal projects, like rehabilitating the mangroves and coral reefs affected by the oil spill. [10]

In 2021, the captain and the first officer were sentenced to 20 months. [11]

In October 2021, Okiyo Maritime Corporation (owner of Wakashio ship) « filed a motion before the Mauritian Supreme Court to limit its liability up to 719.6 million of rupees last year, that is around 16.8 million USD ». In reaction, 1,700 seafarers and inhabitants of Mauritius decided to file a lawsuit before the Mauritian Supreme Court against the company, claiming damages for the effects of the oil spill on their livelihood. Ashok Subron, one of the leaders of Rezistans ek Alternativ: “We think that the government is washing its hands regarding the compensation that these persons have the right to expect”. He explained that some fishermen were offered the equivalent of the minimum wage as compensation and had to sign documents that would make them unable to sue the shipowner. “There is an opacity surrounding the government’s action against Okiyo Maritime Corporation. It gives the impression of wanting to negotiate with the Japanese government to finance infrastructural projects. He is taking advantage of the situation for its own needs”, added Subron, a union leader. This is an opinion shared by the environmental NGO Eco-Sud.

Moreover, there is still a lot of missing information about the damages of the oil spill and shipwreck on the reef, but also the effect of the oil on the food chain. According to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the effects could be known in five years. [9]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Oil leak is threatening nature and local people's health, Mauritius
Location of conflict:Pointe d'Esny
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-The carrier, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, ran aground on July 25, 2020.

-The ship was empty at the time but was carrying 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel, according to the local press

-The grounding happened at Pointe d'Esny, which is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, and near the marine park of Blue Bay.

-Ecologists feared the ship could break up, which would cause an even greater leak and inflict potentially catastrophic damage on the island's coastline.

Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:1.3 million people
Start of the conflict:07/2020
Company names or state enterprises:Mitsui OSK Lines from Japan - owner
Nagashiki Shipping from Japan - owner
Relevant government actors:Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Fishing, Government of Mauritus.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Eco-Sud, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Greenpeace, Fridays for Future, Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA).

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Students, children.
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
clean-up operations


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsMarine Biodiversity loss
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Clean-up operations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Pollution is destroying ecotourism, fishing and other economic activities which are the backbone of Mauritius' economy.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Too early to say. However, this accident is not the first one around the world. There is a high risk linked to the transport of fossil fuels and other polluting commodities which from one day to another can destroy species and the livelihood of thousands of people.

Sources & Materials

[1] France offers aid as Mauritius declares emergency over oil leak from grounded ship

[2] Mauritius declares emergency over oil spill from grounded ship

[3] Océan Indien : quatre questions sur la marée noire qui menace l'île Maurice

[4] Maurice : des hydrocarbures s'écoulent d'un navire échoué depuis fin juillet

[5] Wakashio: Un échouement qui suscite des interrogations

[6] Mauritius Faces Environmental Crisis as Oil Spills From Grounded Ship

[7] A stricken ship is leaking tonnes of fuel into the 'pristine lagoons' of the Indian Ocean

[8] Mauritius scrambles to contain second oil spill from damaged tanker

[9] Vel Mooien (GCaptain), Mauritians take Wakashio Oil Spill Battle to Island's Supreme Court, July 25 2022.

[10] Vel Mooien (GCaptain), Wakashio's Owner Limits Liability Over Grounding as Wreck Removal Continues, November 22 2021.

[11] Mohubath Yasine, Mauritius oil spill: MV Wakashio ship captain sentenced, BBC News, December 27 2021.

Other documents

Kllling birds, including Dodos Souce: The painting on Dr. Tatayah’s wall, based on a woodcut from 1602 and colored by Julian Pender-Hume. VIKASH TATAYAH.

Other comments:"We are in an environmental crisis situation," Environment Minister Kavy Ramano told a press conference.

"Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d'Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius's economy, food security and health," said Greenpeace's climate and energy manager, Happy Khambule.

"This is a serious environmental crisis and we are not yet aware of all the consequences it could have. It's also terrible for Mauritius, whose economy is based on tourism and has already been severely impacted by the pandemic," Younous Omarjee, a member of the European Parliament from Reunion Island

Meta information

Contributor:Grettel Navas and Ksenija Hanaček (ENVJustice Project)
Last update15/09/2022
Conflict ID:5173



Oil spill in Mauritius

A satellite image shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio and its oil spill after it ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius Source: Maxar Technologies/Reuters. Retrieved from: on August 9, 2020

Mauritius 2

Source: Eco-Sud, retrieved from Eco-Sud's facebook on August 9, 2020.

People scoop leaked oil from the vessel MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground and caused oil leakage near Blue bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius on August 9, 2020.

(AFP) Retrieved from