Mauritius announced that there was an environmental crisis after oil started leaking from a bulk carrier that had run aground in the southeast of the island.
"We are in a situation of environmental crisis," Kavy Ramano, the environment minister of the island nation located in the Indian Ocean said.
The ministry requested that the public not go to the beach or in certain lagoons.
The carrier ran aground on July 25 near Pointe d'Esny which is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, and near the marine park of Blue Bay.
"This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind, and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem," said Fishing Minister Sudheer Maudhoo.
The ministers said that all attempts to stabilise the ship had failed because of rough seas, and efforts to pump out the oil had also failed.
Ecologists fear the ship could break up, which would cause an even greater leak and inflict potentially catastrophic damage on the island's coastline.
The country depends crucially on its seas for food and for tourism, boasting some of the finest coral reefs in the world.