Mumbaiwale: Connect with your coast with these marine-life enthusiasts
If you’ve read one report about the Marine Life of Mumbai group, you’ve read them all. This bunch of volunteer enthusiasts has led city folk on early-morning low-tide tours of the coasts since February 2017. They’ve introduced hundreds of locals to the surprising array of marine life – luminous whip-rays, shy hermit crabs, even prickly sea urchins – on the big city’s shores. And they’ve been instrumental in pointing out the treasures we’ll lose in the questionable name of development.
But what reports don’t tell you is that the non-profit, citizen-dependent initiative is more than a group of tour guides. It wants citizens to rekindle their relationship with the coast beyond the promenade and chowpatty and the one-time walk. Shuanak Modi and Sejal Mehta, both part of the group, say that every participant on their walks is shocked at the richness and diversity of the city’s marine life. “The heartening thing is, these aren’t people from the wildlife community but enthusiasts who want to know more about their city,” says Modi.
For them (and for you) there’s the Mumbai Marine Enthusiasts, a Facebook group that encourages public discussion. The community will help identify an anemone species from a photo you shot this morning in Juhu. Locals will share fun anecdotes or news reports about shore life. “It’s a few months old, but we hope it grows to a robust community of interested citizens,” says Mehta.
And there’s expert support for when the waters get choppy. The group is building a bank of scientifically useful documentation and making information easy to access. “On our social media channels, we write about a species each week and do quick stories on shores and habitats,” says Modi. “We encourage people to join our project on iNaturalist.org and contribute their photos to our free-to-use database.” Offline, apart from the walks, are meet-ups and talks featuring marine scientists, researchers and photographers.
Their latest idea? Two walks tomorrow, at the tail end of summer, before the monsoon turns the coast to muck. One is for first-timers. The other for “repeaters”, aimed at empowering citizens to responsibly go on their own seaside explorations in the future. “Over time people in Mumbai seem to have lost touch with our sea,” observes Mehta. “Our shores are a great place to drown out the chaos and congestion of the city and we’d like the citizens of Mumbai to reclaim them.”
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