Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said officials had on Tuesday found samples of fish contaminated by oil that had spilled from the MSC Chitra. The ship has been marooned since Saturday, when it collided with another merchant vessel. Chavan has asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to closely monitor the supply of fish.
Civic officials on Tuesday visited sites where fishermen bring their stocks and collected samples. Deputy Municipal Commissioner R.B. Bhosale said samples were collected from Ferry Wharf, Sassoon Dock and Shivaji Market and sent for testing. "We collected samples of pomfret, Bombay duck and mandeli," he added.
Officials, however, pointed out that most of the fish sold in the city was caught earlier and frozen as there is a ban on deep-sea fishing during the monsoon. As a result, trawlers, which supply most of Mumbai’s fish, do not venture into the sea. Most of the fish sold during this season comes from Kolkata, Orissa and Vishakhapatnam. Vilas Chawri, chairman of the Markets and Garden Committee, said: "The fish in the market now was caught in April-May."
"The city gets most of its supply from outside, not areas affected by the oil spill. But, as a precaution, we have advised people to avoid eating fish. In any case, fishing is banned till August 15," said Chavan. Fisheries Minister Nitin Raut said the ban on fishing would be extended, if needed. "We will assess the situation on August 14," he said.
Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) scientists are monitoring the spread of oil and are collecting sea water samples. Fresh tar and oil had not reached new areas, they said. Earlier, oil patches were spotted at Colaba, Rewas, Mandwa and Kihim.
The team will head out again on Wednesday to collect water samples. "We want to see if the oil content is increasing, decreasing or staying the same," said Deepak Apte, assistant director, BNHS.
No traces have been found at Girgaum Chowpatty or at Malad. However, a team will collect samples from Gorai. "We cannot assess the on-shore spread during high tide because the oil is not thick. Only when the tide settles can we figure out how deep the oil has percolated," said Apte.