50 whales and dolphins died immediately after the major oil spill in the Indian Ocean tropical paradise island of Mauritius last month.
How toxic was the oil? How is it impacting marine life? What are some of the long term impacts of this oil spill? These are just some of the many questions that remain about the Mauritius oil spill since the large Japanese vessel struck an important coral reef in Southeast Mauritius and started spilling oil on August 6.
One of the biggest mysteries has been what has happened to the oil fingerprinting.
Oil fingerprinting is one of the most foundational acts for anyone involved in the oil industry. Whenever there is an oil spill, conducting oil fingerprinting is one of the first activities that is undertaken (essentially it is the same as collecting blood from a crime scene and conducting a DNA forensic analysis on that blood). This informs all the responders how the oil will react in the ocean water and how toxic the oil is.
One of the biggest mysteries is why the results of the oil fingerprinting not been published yet or even mentioned in any of the international or national reports coming from Mauritius. It’s been over two months since the oil spill, and the Mauritian Government had specifically requested international help in this area.
Today, satellite analysis for Forbes can reveal where that oil is being stored. There should no longer be any excuse preventing scientists from conducting such an analysis and publishing these results.
Understanding oil toxicity was one of the most fundamental questions that Forbes first asked when the oil spill first occurred.
In response to Forbes at the time on August 19, the UN agency responsible for shipping and ship fuel, London-based International Maritime Organization, admitted that they “don’t have any concrete information on this as yet,” and that the “longer-term fate and effects that are not yet known.”
To be clear, a highly toxic fuel was spilled into Mauritius’ clear waters around a major biodiversity hotspot that was internationally protected, and the UN regulator of these fuels admitted that they had not conducted the required safety tests around this fuel. Within days of the oil spill, 50 whales and dolphins had washed up dead on Mauritius’s shores. Mysterious dark substances can now be seen swirling around the coast of Mauritius, that could be the result of harmful biological activity caused by this oil.
Questions surround the role of the UN’s IMO
The fuel on the ship is regulated by the UN’s International Maritime Organization, and was certified safe by them. Another matter is how such an unknown fuel could be aboard a single-hulled vessel. For such risky fuels, a double-hulled ship would have avoided the oil spill that has caused so much devastation in Mauritius.
All oil tankers have had to be double-hulled since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, but the IMO has allowed a loophole for the 60,000 large ocean vessels that continue to operate with the riskier single-hull model.
This is despite the size of ships ballooning 1500% in the last 50 years. Today’s largest container and bulk…
Read More: Where Is The Oil Fingerprinting?