Pradip Patade quit his job of 22 years as a human resources professional to pursue his passion for studying the marine life along Mumbai’s coast. In the past six years, Patade, 48, has photographed more than 250 species, including crabs, jellyfish, corals, starfish, seahorses, sea urchins, octopus and squids.
“It is imperative to understand that a rich marine life survives along the coast, and one doesn’t need to go as far as Andaman or Lakshadweep,” said Patade, who teaches kayaking, windsurfing, paddle boating and dragon-boat racing for a water sports company. “I discovered a new world that needs to be conserved,” he said.
He said that earlier, he pursued his interest in documenting marine life as a hobby, alongside his job. “I decided to let go of my mundane daily schedule to follow my passion. I took up the responsibility of caring for the ocean as it cares for us,” he said.
Patade uses his waterproof camera and chooses low tides to explore the coasts. He has studied marine life found off the coasts of Cuffe Parade, Girgaum Chowpatty, Walkeshwar and Napean Sea Road and documented two rare species – the orange sea fan (gorgonian fan) and the pipe fish that belongs to the sea horse family.
“I scan fishermen’s nets to observe unique species that they may have caught unknowingly and try to trace the species using the information given by the fishermen,” he said.
Anand Pendharkar, a wildlife biologist, said the research conducted by Patade is comprehensive and carries great value. “Hardly anyone has documented species along the coast with such detail,” said Pendharkar.
“From reporting environmental violations to carrying out regular beach clean-ups, he has been involved in protecting the city’s beaches and aquatic life.”
Patade’s work has also drawn attention to the disposal of waste, especially plastic, on the city’s beaches and seas. He has alerted the city’s municipal corporation using images of plastic pollution that he has captured.
“Microplastics — plastic fragments created by wave action that settle on the ocean floor — block the oxygen meant for aquatic species. If sustainable solutions are not implemented by the authorities, marine life will be wiped out over the next five years,” added Patade.
“Being sensitive to nature and making a conscious effort to protect it is the need of the hour. Citizens like Patade, through their extensive field work are contributing to the conservation of nature,” said Avinash Kubal, deputy director, Maharashtra Nature Park in Mahim.
“Knowledge about marine species is very scanty. In light of Patade’s efforts, any addition to that knowledge is welcome. We must understand diversity to initiate steps for conservation,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
“These are people who silently fight to conserve what really matters by recognising the need for mass awareness and environmental conservation. Their experience has to be utilised and made part of the mainstream research,” said Isaac Kehimkar, deputy director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
Rich biodiversity on Mumbai’s ocean floor
Water sports enthusiast, Pradip Patade has photo-documented more than 250 marine species along South Mumbai’s coastline along Cuffe Parade, Girgaum Chowpatty, Walkeshwar and Napean Sea Road
These are some from his exhaustive checklist
Marine Invertebrates Species (multicellular animals that inhabit a marine environment lacking a vertebral column)
• 9 species of algae
• 59 species of corals — zoanthids, hard corals, orange sea fans (gorgonian fan), jellyfish, crabs
• 10 species of echinoderms – starfish, feather stars, sea urchins, brittle stars, sea cucumbers
• 23 species of molluscs – sea slugs, cowries, limpets, bivalves, shells, octopus, squids
Marine vertebrate species
•12 species of ornamental fish that do not have commercial value – puffer fish, pipe fish, seahorses, angel fish, rabbit fish, scat fish, eels and parrot fish
• Snakes, dolphins and four types of porpoise
(Source: Pradip Patade, who will be releasing a field guide to study the various marine species in 2017)
200 butterfly species documented
Apart from recording Mumbai’s marine species, Patade has identified more than 200 species of butterflies from sites such as the Maharashtra Nature Park, Malabar Hill and Ovalekar Wadi in Thane. He is one of two Indians to identify the rare Kashmir Plain Marbled Skipper butterfly.