Minister blames sharks as 17 dead dolphins are found on Mauritius coast

No fewer than 17 dolphins have been discovered dead on the coast of Mauritius, with the country’s Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, saying they might have died from shark bites.

However, environmental campaigners believe the deaths might be due to a recent oil spill from a Japanese-owned ship or by authorities sinking part of the vessel.

But Maudhoo said “at first glance” the deaths appeared to be unconnected to the spill, adding that at least two of the dolphins had shark bites.

He said said initial tests on the dolphins indicated that there was no link between the oil spill and their deaths.

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The carcasses are currently undergoing a post-mortem.

It is rare for so many dead dolphins to be found at the same time. Two were found in May 2019.

These are the first reported deaths of dolphins since the shipwreck. Up to now, many fish and crabs have been found dead.

The sight of the dolphins caused anger among residents.

“Waking up this morning to witness so many dead dolphins on our seashore is worse than a nightmare,” resident Nitin Jeeha told the BBC.

“I have seen around eight to 10 dead dolphins. Are there more in the lagoon?”

Although many of the dolphins were found dead, some were discovered weak or dying on the shore.

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The MV Wakashio ran aground on the coral reef on 25 July at Pointe d’Esny, a known sanctuary for rare wildlife.

The area contains wetlands designated as a site of international importance by the Ramsar convention on wetlands.

Oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo said the dolphins smelled of fuel.

“In my opinion, this situation will continue to deteriorate as time goes on,” he was quoted by local media as saying.

Environmentalist Sunil Dowarkasing said either the oil spill from the bulk carrier or the sinking of its bow last week caused the deaths.

“The scuttling probably disturbed marine mammals in their natural habitat. There will be after-effects, and this is just the beginning,” Mr Dowarkasing added.

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