At least 40 dolphins were found dead near Mauritius, an island off of East Africa, after an oil spill from a Japanese ship polluted the waters.
Environmentalists are calling for an investigation into the Japanese ship that has been leaking oil into the ocean since July, according to a Friday report by Reuters.
The ship was scuttled Monday.
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“There was a mother and her baby,” a fisherman Yasfeer Heenaye, told Reuters. “He was very tired, he didn’t swim well. But the mom stayed alongside him, she didn’t leave her baby to go with the group. All the way, she stayed with him. She was trying to protect him.”
Fishermen from the area expect that the marine life death toll will probably rise, after they worked to try and separate the animals from the pollution.
Hennaye described how he saw 25-30 dolphins floating in a lagoon, apparently dead from the polluted waters. He filmed an infant dolphin struggling until it too succumbed in front of them.
Hennaye reportedly asked another boat to track the mother dolphin, after the baby had died, since his own boat was low on fuel.
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“But in a few minutes she went on her side, one fin in the water, and one out of the water, and then she started flapping her tail really, really rapidly,” Reuben Pillay told the publication.
Pillay is a professional drone operator and environmentalist who filmed the events.
The mother dolphin did not float like the other deceased dolphins, but instead sank — suggesting more marine life could have died from the oil spill.
Autopsies from another 25 dolphins that washed ashore earlier this week should be released in the coming days, Jasvin Sok Appadu, from the Mauritius fisheries ministry, told Reuters.
The oil spill is believed to the result of a Japanese ship, the MV Wakashio, hitting a coral reef in July.
Environmental activist group Greenpeace submitted a letter to Japanese company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, which owns the ship, demanding to know why it was sailing so close to a coral reef.
Greenpeace pointed to not only the damage caused to marine life, but to the livelihoods of the people that live there.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines responded, promising to “open a dialogue” to address the damage the ship caused.
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“It is time to use your influence to reduce harm to the planet and people at risk. This is an opportunity to speed up to change your business portfolio and make renewable energy the core of your business,” Greenpeace said in a follow up letter to the company Thursday, demanding they make good on their promise.
“As long as we continue using oil, spills and accidents like this will continue to happen.”