Effect of Oil Spills on Fish

Environment

HOW DOES THE OIL SPILL IN MUMBAI AFFECT THE FISH I EAT?

Oil slicks or spills affect the entire marine environment and thus affect all the organisms that live within it, be they fish or plants. Oil always floats on water. This floating oil coats the body of the fish in a thick layer and affects their breathing capacity. Many oils become stickier over time–this is called weathering–and therefore adhere to wildlife even more. Some fish are even attracted to oil because it looks like floating food. If the fish ingest the oil, it is likely that they could get poisoned and if you consume this fish, you are likely to get affected too. Oil can cause organ damage and organ failure in fish. It also causes damage to fish eggs, larvae and young fish. Shell fish are most affected as the oil gets deposited between their shell and skin and, depending on the kind of oil, can affect various organs. It is thus best to avoid eating fish till the coastal regulation department gives the go ahead.

To find out more about this subject, Pooja Patel spoke to Deepak Apte, Assistant Director, Bombay Natural History Society

HAS THE OIL SPILL AFFECTED THE MANGROVES A LOT?
A species of mangrove called, Avicennea marina has been most affected by the oil spill. This is the dominant species in this region. Besides this, species like Sonneratia and Rhizhophora mucronata are partially affected.

IN WHAT WAY HAS THEIR LIFE CYCLE BEEN DISRUPTED?
Most of the impact is on the mangrove seeds and young saplings. These are completely coated with oil. Due to this,  seeds will not germinate and thus the saplings will die.

HAVE THE FISH BEEN AFFECTED TOO?
Full grown fish may not have been majorly affected. But the juveniles and yearlings, which stay among mangroves and rock pools will be partially affected. However, it is very difficult to measure the loss.

ACCORDING TO YOU, HAS THE MARINE LIFE SUFFERED LONG-TERM LOSSES?
Yes, but the effects will be visible only on the next generation of many species whose eggs and larvae have been affected. This will be visible only after a year and more.

CAN ONE CONSUME FISH?
Consuming fish and shellfish from shallow water, particularly crabs,  oysters, bivalves should not be a major issue. However, one needs to take precautions rather than panic. Shellfish are best avoided for at least three to five months, depending on oil deposits.

SHOULD WE AVOID GOING TO THE BEACH?
Beaches along Mumbai and Raigad,  between Mandwa and Alibaug, should be avoided for a few days as traces of oil will still be visible here. In any case, the monsoons are not a safe time to go to the beach as the sea is rough.

HAVE THE FISHERMEN BEEN AFFECTED BADLY?
Traditional fisherman and fishermen with small boats will get affected. Large trawler owners will probably not be impacted.

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