A Japanese disaster relief team said Friday it has confirmed there has been no damage from oil spilled from a grounded Japanese freighter off Mauritius on corals and mangroves in wetland sites recognized by the Ramsar Convention.
The seven-member team, including five environment experts, has been conducting on-site environmental probes since Aug. 21 at spots including those in two wetlands of international importance -- Blue Bay Marine Park and Pointe D'Esny.
"No entry of oil has been confirmed in mangroves, and no oil coating on their roots has been observed either (in the wetlands)," said Noriaki Sakaguchi, a deputy team leader and an ecosystem conservation expert at the Japan International Cooperation Agency, said in an online briefing.
"(Blue Bay corals) are healthy as they have not been affected by oil pollution or cloudy water," he said.
Along with corals, mangroves are considered a crucial part of the ecosystem because they serve as nurturing grounds for young marine creatures, as well as buffer zones for cyclone waves and tsunami, according to the experts.
The team led by Seiji Tashiro, an official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, has found the wreck of the ship and oil fence ropes crushed corals and made waters near the accident site murky, which put corals under stress as they need sunlight for survival.
The team attributed the situation of no damage to installment of oil fences and the direction of ocean current, which is likely to have carried spilled oil away from the Ramsar sites.
It also said no significant oil damage was found on Egret Island, near Pointe D'Esny, as many animals and plants had been transferred to mainland Mauritius as a precautionary measure after the accident.
"The ecosystem of the entire island has not been threatened by the oil spill," said Yukihiro Haisa, another deputy team leader and a Japanese Environment Ministry official.
Japan dispatched the first relief team, consisting of officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Japan Coast Guard and JICA from Aug. 10 to Aug. 23 that provided assistance in on-site oil removal activities.
The third team of six members, including experts on corals, mangroves and birds, was set to arrive in Mauritius on Friday, according to JICA.
On July 25, the Panama-flagged bulk carrier Wakashio transporting a total of some 3,800 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel, ran aground near Pointe D'Esny. The vessel is owned by Nagashiki Shipping Co. and operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd.
More than 1,000 tons of oil have spilled from the vessel since Aug. 6, prompting the Mauritius government to declare an environmental emergency.