Industrial effluents, oil drilling, climate change and environmental degradation along the coast have driven away seven fish and prawn species from the Arabian sea near Mumbai over the past five years, according to recent data released by the Central Institute of Fisheries Education in Versova (see box).
Besides this loss of diversity, the quantity of fish has also fallen. The average catch has fallen to almost one-eighth the level seen five years ago, according to experts. For instance, the silver pomfret catch has dropped to 2,000 tonnes from 15,000 tonnes in the period, according to the municipal corporation.
“If this trend continues, there will be no fish along the Mumbai coast in the next five years,” said Sushant Chakraborty, head of fish resource management at the fisheries institute.
Even the fish left in the sea are toxic. The fish off the Mahim and Bandra coast, even five kilometres into the sea, were highly toxic, a recent study by the National Environment Engineering Research Institute and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute found.
“Some of the fish caught recently had high quantities of heavy metals such as lead, nickel, chromium and chemical dyes,” said Chakraborty.
The destruction of mangroves, which are a nesting site for many species such as lobsters and crabs, has dented catch, he said. Fish are also choking on the plastic that floods the creeks.
“There is hardly any catch left up to five nautical miles,” said G.K. Bhanji, chairman, National Association of Fishermen, and president of the Maharashtra Koli Samaj. “The creeks of Versova, Mahim, Malad and Vashi now hardly yield anything.”