Revellers on Juhu Beach can heave a sigh of relief. Lab analysis carried out by National Institute of Oceanography ( NIO), an autonomous research organisation which collected over 20 species of dead fish, crabs and water samples from the site, revealed that there are no traces of any hazardous chemicals or oil which could have led to large- scale deposits of decaying marine life on the shoreline.
Last week, SUNDAY MiD DAY had reported the presence of tons of dead fish and other sea creatures — including nine feet- long eels, a large (over five feet- long) octopus and dozens of stingrays — who were washed ashore on the long stretch of Juhu beach. It initiated a quick response from the NIO and Pollution Control Board.
Putting all rumours of an impending ecological disaster to rest, Shankar Gajbaje, marine biologist and officerin- charge of NIO, Mumbai, informed that, based on the information given by this newspaper, he and a team of scientists rushed to the beach to collect samples. “ Apart from the absence of any hazardous pollutants, all the samples had one thing in common — they were of no economic importance, which strongly suggest that they have been discarded by fishing trawlers at high seas, and washed ashore,” said Gajbaje.
He added that large fishing trawlers, who do mass fishing near the international waters, scrutinise their catch onboard their vessels soon after the nets are hauled in. “ Fish and other marine life, which can be sold in the local market or exported is stored in ice, while other creatures are normally dried and used for organic manure. It appears that the trawlers simply did not want to store the extra weight and decided to dump it back into the sea."
Amit Patil, one of the research scientists who collected and analysed the samples, too, believed that it was highly unlikely that creatures like giant octopus and eels, which are only found in deeper waters, washed ashore on their own.
Deeming the mass deaths as an annual affair, Neville David, president of the Juhu Beach Lifeguard Association, claimed that he has been witnessing the phenomena for years. “Soon after the monsoons, local fishermen venture into the waters, first to net lobsters and then tiger prawns. In the third phrase, in October, much of the inedible marine life invariably ends up in their nets and is discarded,” he said.
‘Unlikely and uncanny’
Expressing her doubts over the findings, Munazza Sheikh, a meat exporter, stated that it was highly unlikely that a fisherman would simply discard a giant octopus or hoards of eels as waste. “ These species, do not have much demand in the local market, but are much sought after in countries like Thailand and Vietnam, where they are considered a delicacy. We recently had an export enquiry for both. Furthermore, the presence of so many dead fish only on one particular day is uncanny and needs to be further investigated,” she said.