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Simulating the spatial and temporal distribution of oil spill over the coral reef environs along the southeast coast of Mauritius: A case study on MV Wakashio vessel wreckage, August 2020

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An oil spill occurred off Mauritius on 6 August 2020, as merchant vessel (MV) Wakashio, with 3896 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) on board, struck the coral reef, causing a significant threat to the coral environment. Approximately 1000 tons of HFO leaked from the vessel. The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) set-up an oil-spill trajectory model for the Mauritius domain and generated oil drift patterns during the spill period for 1000 tons of HFO. The simulation showed that Mauritius’s south-east coast was under threat to receive HFO from the stranded vessel. The simulated oil drift pattern was in good agreement with the oil slick signatures obtained from Sentinel-1A data. The affected zone of coral reef environs during the spill period was also estimated using Sentinel-2 datasets. Our analysis showed that on 8 August the oil spread over 14.58 and 5.52 km2 of reef flat and algae/seagrass over the reef, respectively. From 15 August onwards, the oil spread gradually decreased and concentrated along the northern coast of Mauritius over mudflat/mud over reef/turbid water zone. On 8 August, the coastal districts of Grand Port and Flacq were highly affected due to oil spillage. The seaward coral reef zones were least affected by oil spill, compared to the coral reefs adjacent to the coast.

Research highlights

  • In this research study, oil-spill trajectory prediction model was set for Mauritius domain with the necessary details of the spill and the model was forced with winds, ensemble ocean currents and diffusion turbulence.

  • The simulated oil drift pattern was validated using space-borne synthetic aperture radar data.

  • The oil drift patterns were superimposed over coral reef environs to estimate the extent of affected coral reef classes during the spill period.

  • It was found that the reef flats were highly affected due to oil spillage on 8 August 2020.

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The authors express their sincere gratitude to the director, INCOIS for extending support in carrying out this study. We acknowledge the Mauritius Oceanographic Institute for providing the necessary details of oil spill. The authors acknowledge that the execution of the oil-spill model GNOME is adopted from NOAA and set in a diagnostic mode for simulating oil-spill trajectories of the Indian Ocean. Thanks are due to the developers of NOAA GNOME. Dr Francis P A, INCOIS was thanked for providing the simulated ocean currents of ROMS. The authors thank Copernicus marine data service providers from which GMOM currents are utilised. European Space Agency is thanked for providing Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 datasets. The authors thank the reviewers and editor for their encouraging comments and suggestions towards the improvement of the manuscript. ArcMap tool was used to plot and generate the trajectory output in native format. Ferret software in Linux environment was used to interpret the oil slick signatures and to make the oil drift plot with vectors.

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Authors and Affiliations



Dr S J Prasad: Setting the oil-spill model for Mauritius domain with winds, ensemble ocean currents, carried out oil-spill trajectory prediction, processed SAR data and carried out the validation. Dr T M Balakrishnan Nair: Framework of the manuscript, reviewed and suggested for modifications. Dr Sudheer Joseph: Generated the velocity components from HYCOM model setup and also suggested improvements in the manuscript. Dr P C Mohanty: Carried out coral reef classification, mapping and estimated the spatial extent of affected coral reefs due to oil spillage.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to P C Mohanty.

Additional information

Communicated by Maripi Dileep

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Prasad, S.J., Nair, T.M.B., Joseph, S. et al. Simulating the spatial and temporal distribution of oil spill over the coral reef environs along the southeast coast of Mauritius: A case study on MV Wakashio vessel wreckage, August 2020. J Earth Syst Sci 131, 42 (2022).

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