Mumbai Food: How to pick the right fish to eat this monsoon

Jun 15, 2017, 08:20 IST | Shraddha Uchil

Three marine researchers bust the myth of staying away from seafood in the monsoon, and tell you how to pick the right fish

At Sassoon Dock, you will find varieties of local fish you didn’t know existed. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
At Sassoon Dock, you will find varieties of local fish you didn’t know existed. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Did you know that contrary to what you've been told, not all fish breed during the monsoon? And that there are several varieties you can enjoy during this season without the accompanying guilt?

With the help of Know Your Fish (KYF), an initiative by marine researchers Pooja Rathod, Mayuresh Gangal and Chetana Purushotham, those living along the West Coast can figure out how to make responsible seafood choices through the year.

KYF's website displays a calendar that matches the months with the most commonly eaten fish - kingfish, mackerel, pomfret, and squid - explaining when they are fine to consume, and when they should be avoided. It also busts the myth that seafood should be avoided during the rains. "The 45-day fishing ban that is enforced in many states of India might help a few species, but not all. We've been collating information for the past two years from published scientific literature, and the picture seems to be different," says Rathod.

She adds that due to rising demand, Indian fisheries often over-harvest across breeding seasons, which differ from one fish variety to another, thus depleting stocks. "If consumers could make informed choices, the demand for specific fish could decrease and help replenish stocks."

To help consumers, KYF has an SMS service to which you can subscribe for free and receive monthly fish recommendations. Apart from this, they have also tied up with restaurants, including Diva Maharashtracha and Sarovar Hotels and Resorts in Mumbai, which support the initiative. "Apart from the eight restaurants that first signed up, we now have on board Open Window Cafe Bistro and German Bakery in Pune, The HQ and Fort Tiracol in Goa," shares Rathod.

The trio says the next step is to start educating the fishermen living along the coast. Rathod explains, "We plan to first identify fishermen, then establish links between them and restaurants, and make sure the eateries procure fish from them. This will possibly motivate the fisherfolk to continue their way of fishing and not shift to more destructive practices."


What to eat
Note: These fish are deemed safe to eat at this time of the year simply because they are not breeding. However, a few of these species are more vulnerable to overfishing because of their demand and the manner in which they are caught.

Golden anchovy (Mandeli)
Status: Currently not vulnerable

Barramundi (Chonak)
Status: Currently not vulnerable

Silver pomfret (Paplet)
Status: Highly vulnerable

Bombay duck (Bombil)
Status: Highly vulnerable

Kingfish (Surmai)
Status: Highly vulnerable


Lady fish, mackerel, some species of groupers, sardines and croakers should be avoided in June because it's their breeding period. It is likely that most of them are carrying eggs or have just had babies, and therefore shouldn't be caught.

Prawns are caught by destructive fishing practices like trawling, which cause huge wastage of other marine life including sharks, sea turtles, and rays.

Chef Thomas Zacharias, The Bombay Canteen
We try as much as possible to be a sustainable venture. We have a Mandeli Fry on our monsoon menu, and are currently using barramundi in a dish, too. It's also important to opt for local seafood varieties, rather than pick something like basa.

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