Tons of dead fish and other sea creatures were washed ashore on the long stretch of the otherwise picturesque Juhu beach on Saturday morning, sending local residents and ecological experts into a tizzy. Rumour mills began doing the rounds about an impending ecological disaster.
When SUNDAY MiD DAY visited the site yesterday, among the dead marine life was a nine feet-long eel, a large (over five feet-long) octopus and dozens of stingrays. The entire stretch of the beach was full of dead sea creatures.
Complaining about his dead catch, 50-year-old fisherman Suresh Dandekar said he was anticipating a big catch of fresh fish, when he docked his boat at dawn. “Finding dead fish is nothing new for people like me, who have spent their entire life at sea. But what we have witnessed today is terrible. Not a single fish in the entire catch is fit for human consumption,” said Dandekar.
Trying his best to clear up the mess, China Tambi, a BMC cleanup marshall, said it was not possible for even a large team of workers to collect and dispose the dead fish. “Since morning, I have been witnessing fishermen emptying their catch of dead fish on the beach, as it cannot be sold in the market. How so many fish are dying is a mystery and can only be answered by an expert,” she said.
SMD contacted Shankar Gajbaje, marine biologist and officer-in-charge of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), an autonomous research organisation. Based on the information given by this newspaper, he said his team of scientists was at the beach to collect samples, which would be analysed in their lab and ascertain cause of the mass death.
He added that a probable cause could be massive dumping by commercial trawlers in deeper waters. “Such dumpers are known to discard fish which do not have commercial value, or if they experience torn fishing nets.”
Promising quick action, Raju Vasave, regional officer, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board said he would dispatch his team of officers to investigate the matter. “There is no source of industrial waste in the vicinity of Juhu beach, so we can only plot the future course of action once the site is inspected and samples are collected for further analysis,” he said.
A three-member team from the NIO returned with samples later in the day. Amit Patil, one of the scientists, said the incoming high tide was making their efforts difficult, but they had managed to collect over 20 species of dead fish and crabs for lab analysis. “Prima facie, the samples are found only in deeper waters and finding them dead on the coast is a cause of concern. We have also collected water samples for our lab analysis,” said Patil.