Stark warning from Mauritius oil spill.

The oil spill off Mauritius earlier this year, now considered the worst environmental disaster in the Western Indian Ocean, is a sharp reminder that our oceans are fragile and need robust protection.

On 25 July 2020, MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk carrier with an estimated haulage of 4,000 tons of very low sulphur Kiel oil (VLSF), ran aground at Pointe d'Esny, near the iconic Blue Bay Marine Park in the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius.

The ship, operated by Japanese firm Mitsui OSK Lines, started to leak several days later, polluting the UNESCO-protected marine park, leading the Mauritian authorities to declare an "environmental emergency".

Mangroves, seagrass, dolphins, turtles, fish and the entire marine life ecosystem in the Blue Bay vicinity has been badly exposed and the ecological damage is yet to be quantified. The MV Wakashio incident has now become one of the worst environmental disasters not just in Mauritian history, but also in the entire Western Indian Ocean archives.

Ten years ago, on the night of 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect, became the largest oil spill in history. These two critical incidents, 10 years apart, have highlighted the importance of oceans as a frontier for commerce and environmental protection.

Both incidents highlight the fragile nature of ocean ecosystems teeming with inimitable marine life and underscore the inherent dangers and hazards posed by pollution for the Blue Economy.

The International Union for the Conservation ofNature (IUCN) says that more than 70% of the planet's surface is covered by the oceans and only 7.4% of it is protected.

The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services, published by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), estimates that owing to rapid development, 100-300m people are at an increased risk of floods and hurricanes brought about by the loss of coastal habitats and protection. The damage and destruction visited on Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Namibia by Cyclone Idai is still fresh.

"Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980,300-400m tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other waste from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world's waters and fertilisers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean 'deadzones' totalling more than 245,000 square kilometres," notes the...

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