39 dolphins, 3 whales wash up on Mauritius after oil spill

In this photo supplied by Greenpeace on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, dolphins lay dead on the shore on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. (Eshan Juman/Greenpeace via AP)

Thirty-nine dead Dolphins have washed ashore on the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius after an oil spill.

Three whales also were found dead Friday, an environmental expert said.

It’s not yet clear what caused the dolphins’ deaths, but alarmed environmentalists have called for an investigation. The dolphins began washing up this week, several days after some 1,000 tons of fuel spilled from a Japanese ship that ran aground on a coral reef then split apart under the pounding surf.

The country’s fisheries minister, Sudheer Maudhoo, told reporters that some dead dolphins had injuries but he denied reports that oil had been found inside them and called their deaths a “sad coincidence.” Experts were still studying the corpses.

MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius, The grounded Japanese ship that leaked tons of oil near protected areas off this Indian Ocean island nation has split apart, with remaining fuel spreading into the turquoise waters. ( 2020 Planet Labs, Inc via AP)

Other dolphins may have died out at sea, environmental consultant and former lawmaker Sunil Dowarkasing said Friday.

“We expect that a lot more have been killed during these few days,” he said, adding that three whales also died. It was not clear what kind of whales they were.

Dowarkasing believes the dolphins either died from the fuel or were poisoned by toxic materials on the ship, which was sunk offshore after the vessel split in two. Most of the remaining 3,000 tons of fuel had been pumped off the ship by then.

Residents of Mauritius plan to march in the capital, Port Louis, on Saturday after weeks of demanding why the government didn’t act more quickly when the ship, the MV Wakashio, ran aground on July 25. It began leaking fuel Aug. 6 into the Mahebourg Lagoon, fouling a protected wetlands area and a small island that was a bird and wildlife sanctuary.