Mauritius reshows its charm five months after tragic oil spill

Local children were swimming in the lagoon at Blue Bay, a famous Mauritian tourist attraction site that was polluted by a wide-spread oil spill after the Japanese-owned MV Wakashio freighter struck a reef in July 2020. (Photo by Ajai Daby/Xinhua)

With the turquoise water, abundant marine fauna, and majestic corals, Mauritius is once again showing all its charm of a tourist paradise five months after an oil spill.

(Xinhua) — With the turquoise water, abundant marine fauna, and majestic corals, Mauritius is once again showing all its charm of a tourist paradise.

Five months after the Japanese Panamanian-flagged freighter MV Wakashio struck the reef at the southeastern lagoon of Mauritius and caused a wide-spread oil spill, Mauritius has almost completely cleaned up and now reopened to the public.

While waiting to welcome new tourists, the inhabitants are also reenjoying the pleasure of the sea. At Blue-Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, children currently on school holidays are enjoying the pleasures of the beach.

In Mahebourg, the capital of the region, the regatta, a race aboard local canoes, resumed on the occasion of the Mauritian Language and Culture Festival on December 12. The lagoon has come back to life and only the fishermen have yet to collect their catch on the high seas.

The lagoon is scheduled to reopen for them in early 2021 and soon the MV Wakashio will just become a bad memory.

The regatta resumed on the occasion of the Mauritian Language and Culture Festival on Dec. 12, 2020, at the beach of Mahebourg, Mauritius. (Photo by Ajai Daby/Xinhua)

On Aug. 7, the world was horrified to discover the images of a black sea of oil while local residents were trying to prevent an unprecedented disaster in Mauritius. In quick response, local residents and volunteers installed artisanal floating dams to contain the fuel and prevent it from spreading towards the east coast.

The nature reserve of the Ile aux Aigrettes (Island of The Egrets), which was protected by the Mauritian government since 1965, has been managed by a local NGO, the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. Since 1985, the Ile aux Aigrettes has been regarded as a refuge to stabilize and restore endangered species in an endemic setting.

Letichia, a professional guide of the site, does not hide her joy after months of cleaning work.

“In the wake of the shipwreck and the oil spill, the air was unbreathable on the island for at least two weeks. We had to put in place an emergency rescue plan with the evacuation of the bats, the cardinals (bird) of Mauritius, and more than 4,000 plants. Certain reptiles were also brought back on the mainland but not all could be,” she said.

“We don’t know how the oil and the vapors could have affected the plants and animals and if there are mutations or sterilization ….we have set up the monitoring of the impact in the long term,” said the guide.

For their part, the biologists who live on the island now will continue with their conservation work.

So far, the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation has implemented 40 conservation programs to support various endangered species. According to the Mauritius National Parks and Conservation Service, Ile aux Aigrettes has the best-preserved native vegetation cover of all the Mascarene coral islands.

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