The Gulser Ana going down. Photo via Australia.
Approximately 2 months ago, on August 26, a ship carrying a large load of toxic waste and fuel ran aground in the southernmost point of Madagascar. It is still not cleaned up.
Madagascar is an ecosystem rich in biodiversity and is home to 5% of the world’s species. Some species are found nowhere else on earth. The tons of pollutants spilled into the ocean are not only affecting the marine life; but the people who live inland as well. These people are contracting respiratory and skin diseases for the first time in their lives.
The Gulsar Ana, a Turkish shipping vessel, leaked its entire load of 39,000 tons of raw phosphates, 568 tons of fuel, and 66 tons of diesel into the Indian Ocean. But this leak did not happen in just any part of the Indian Ocean. According to World Wide Fund for Nature, this portion of the ocean happens to be an incredibly important whale reproduction and migratory corridor zone. As if this wasn’t bad enough, it happens to be mating season.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called the spill an 'ecological disaster'. WWF compiled a report on the consequences of the spill – and the results are not good.
The report says:
. . . nine whales beached in September alone, and some beach stretches seem to be real death zones, the report found. Villagers suffer from diseases such as respiratory problems, skin diseases and diarrhea.
Whale killed by Gulsner Ana spill. Photo via HLN Site is not in English.
The report continues by revealing that there are oil clumps covering 30 km (19 mi) of beach which are affecting 20,000 people on a number of different levels.
The most obviously affected are those who develop respiratory, skin and other diseases; however, livelihoods are being affected also. Many of the local inhabitants make their livings fishing. Now, because of the toxic waste spill and the resulting pollution of the water, fishing has been banned. This in turn lowers their incomes or they lose their incomes entirely.
The local inhabitants have had their diets impacted as well. While most of their catch used to be sold, some was withheld for consumption by the family. For some, the fish they caught was their main source of protein and they are financially unable to replace it with something else.
The work on cleaning up the spill has been in progress for two months now. The workers are trying to clean up these toxins without the protection of full hazmat gear; and, they are not protected from the waste in any way. The collection bags used to haul away the waste are thin plastic bags that burst easily splashing the contents on the unprotected workers.
And the whales?
"Like human beings, whales suffer from respiratory problems due to diesel odour. They come to the surface from time to time to breathe, so if they happen to surface through an oil film, this might result in the animal's death," Yvette Razafindrakoto, WCS [Wildlife Conservation Society] marine mammal specialist said.
Laws need to be tougher, fines need to be raised and enforced, restitution and restoration need to be made mandatory and enforcement needs to be 100%.
Write your local government representative expressing your concern.