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City-based marine biologist Harshal Karve shares, “I have been studying the corals in Mumbai’s intertidal zones and along its coastline. It’s important to know that only particular species of corals possess the capacity to develop a reef. While reef-building coral species have been found in parts of the city, it is difficult to ascertain the presence of a reef because the water here is turbid. Speaking about the role of individuals in conservation, Shaunak Modi, founder, Marine Life of Mumbai (MLOM), points out, “If we want to preserve corals, the first thing we can collectively do is to ensure that the ecosystems which they are part of continue to thrive. In photo: (left) Shaunak Modi and Harshal Karve (right)
Karve says, “Though research regarding the presence of corals can help gain better understanding, if the information is being used to develop underwater projects, then it should probably not be encouraged. However, if it is used to formulate policies for its protection, it’s always a welcome change,” Additionally, Sejal Mehta, consultant editor, MLOM states, “Infrastructure projects are a big threat in Mumbai. Citizens should engage with the ecosystem. A walk by the sea doesn’t require any special permit.” She also says that knowledge is extremely powerful and one should interact with science and scientists to gain knowledge.
Another marine biologist, Gaurav Patil shares some interesting facts. He says, “In recent times, we spotted snail eggs amidst a garbage patch near Juhu Koliwada Jetty. The bead-like eggs were seen on plastic bags, which means the snail species is treating plastic as a natural substrate.” A flowerpot coral called Bernardpora too can be found at Marine Drive. The species multiply in numbers amidst silt.
On one of his walks, a day before the lockdown, the biologist chanced upon a honeycomb moray eel along the Mahalaxmi shoreline. One wouldn’t expect to spot the fish in Mumbai, given that as a species associated with coral reefs; they need a certain quality of water to survive. This year, Patil spotted the fish along the Bandra shoreline.
During the same walk, participants caught sight of a mole crab. There were no records of mole crabs from Mumbai for a long time. The last sighting was documented in the 1960s.
Patil adds, "Mumbai’s northern beaches haven’t really been explored. During a public walk, the Erangal beach that is situated close to Malad was seen to have the same reef-building corals that are found in Haji Ali."