Mauritius oil spill cleanup efforts gets funding boost

Published on
October 1, 2020

Weeks after the Mauritius government ordered fishermen to keep away from the country’s beaches and lagoons due to the oil spill that has impacted the coastal Blue Bay, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced a USD 500,000 (EUR 429,118) emergency assistance grant to support international recovery efforts in cleaning up the oil spill that has drawn global attention.

Mauritius, which has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones of all countries in Southern and East Africa at 1.28 million square kilometers, is likely to utilize the bank’s financing in support of ongoing cleanup operations to pave the way for a quick resumption of fishing operations and other blue economy activities.

The oil spill incident involved a Japanese vessel, MV Wakashio that spilled nearly 1,000 metric tons of oil off the coast of Mauritius last July.

The bank says the funding, which has been drawn from the Special Relief Fund, “will complement ongoing activities by the government of Mauritius, development partners, and other actors to undertake salvaging and cleaning operations, conduct damage and loss assessments, along with other socio-economic evaluations.”

According to AfDB’s Director for Agriculture and Agro-industry Martin Fregene, the grant “is an important contribution to the International Recovery effort towards restoring the pristine marine ecology, so important for livelihoods in the blue economy and tourism sectors, which is now threatened by the unfortunate oil spill.”

Meanwhile, international non-governmental organization, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), had previously termed the oil spill “tragic and preventable incident.”

It said the Mauritius tragedy joins growing list of marine accidents in the Southwestern Indian Ocean region, “including a phosphate spill in southern Madagascar in August 2009, and the mass stranding of dolphins in 2008 following underwater seismic sounding by Exxon Mobil in northwestern Madagascar.”

 “This oil spill is a severe threat to critical ecological resources, including coral reefs, fish, and other coastal and marine life of the southeast coast of Mauritius,” WWF Madagascar Country Director Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana said in a release. “The impact on 2,300 artisanal fishermen and women and the 1.5 percent of Mauritius’ GDP derived from the fishing industry are devastating.”

Although Mauritius is yet to avail precise data on the impact of the oil spill on its fishing industry, the incident comes at a time when the country, with a per capita fish consumption of 23.2 kilograms per-person per-year, is implementing a raft of measures to harness its blue economy potential.

For example, Finance, Economic Planning and Development minister Dr. Renganaden Padayachy recently said Mauritius will, in the 2020/2021 financial year, focus on wooing investments in joint ventures engaged in fishing activities and its value chain as part of its post COVID-19 recovery scheme. The country is also finalizing plans to set up an inland aquaculture scheme that comes with an 8-year tax holiday and exemption on payment of duties and VATs on imported aquaculture equipment.

Mauritius has also increased the daily rate of the bad weather allowance to fishermen from MUR 365 (USD 8.90 EUR 7.70) to MUR 425 (USD 10.40 EUR 8.90).

During the 2019/2020 financial year Mauritius announced plans to set up an “online and physical fish auction market will be set up to act as an interface between local fishermen, fishing companies and buyers both local and international.”

Mauritius is also seeking to “consolidate and diversify our fisheries and seafood industry” through a stock assessment “to better manage and protect species such as lobsters, squid and other small commercial pelagic fish.”

Photo courtesy of International Maritine Organization

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