Sea life around the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius is dying as a result of a spill reportedly of 1,000 tons of oil, said cleanup volunteers on Tuesday.
The Japanese tanker MV Wakashio hit a coral reef on the southeast coast of Mauritius on July 25. Last week, the tanker began leaking.
Activists working to clear beaches fear a huge environmental crisis, telling the Reuters news agency that they saw dead eels floating in the water and dead starfish covered in black crude oil. They also saw dying crabs and seabirds.
“We don’t know what may happen further with the boat, it may crack more,” said volunteer Yvan Luckhun.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth echoed the sentiments, saying late Monday that the country should brace for the worst, as the ship still contains 2,000 tons of oil.
The government declared a state of emergency and is now working with France, its former colonial ruler, to reduce the effects of the spill as much as possible.
Vikash Tayatah, conservation director at the non-governmental group Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, said that the oil spill set Mauritius’ ecological restoration plan back by two decades.
More damage is expected, as the fragmentation of the oil in the sea could damage coral growth, added Tayatah.
He added that, “There is some anger and some criticism from the civil society that the government may have taken too much time to respond,” because the ship was stuck for almost two weeks before it started to leak oil.
The company that owns the oil tanker, Mitsui OSK Lines, said that it will do the “utmost towards resolving the situation quickly,” but did not give further explanation.