By Swati Jha
City fishermen have blamed Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s (ONGC) recent operations for the increasing instances of corpses of marine animals being found washed ashore.
ONGC has been carrying out seismic blasts to discover oil sites in the Arabian Sea. These blasts that are being carried out on the sea surface emit high seismic waves, which the fishermen say, the marine animals cannot tolerate. According to them, the seismic waves have killed over 35 dolphins in last two months, many of whose corpses have been washed ashore in the city.
According to a source, ONGC has been conducting a survey to detect the site of hydrocarbons or oil reservoirs in the Arabian Sea. He also added that the sites could be located by reading the seismic waves that reflect after hitting any such reservoir.
Damodar Tandel, chairman of the Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti, said that while the decision of carrying out the blast was discussed with the association, the agreement was made to carry out the blasts only for a period of 15 days. “But the activity which had begun in January has already extended to May killing many animals,” said Mr Tandel.
He also said the fishermen are hardly getting any catch from the coasts of Versova, Cuffe Parade, Dahanu and Vasai.
“This is happening even when it is the prime season for catching fish, that is April and May. They breed in the monsoon due to which we stop fishing after rains set in. But even then, there are a lot of dead small fish that are coming up in the fishermen’s nets and the catch is limited to just 1 to 2 per cent rather than the 80 to 90 per cent that we haul every year,” said Mr Tandel.
He also added that the fish are dying only in the areas were the survey is being conducted, that is in Thane and Mumbai. “The density of fish in areas like Raigad and Ratnagiri is normal,” he added.
Many of the marine animals washed ashore comprise of endangered animals. Humpback dolphins and the olive turtles are mentioned in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of the endangered species and are also listed in the appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora.
ONGC has, however, denied the claims and said that other environmental factors are responsible for the deaths.
“The seismic waves that are sent after the blasts affect the marine life only in a minor way, deterring them from living in the area near the blast site. The waves cannot kill them. Our geoscientists have been carrying out multiple surveys and have confirmed that the blasts are absolutely safe for marine animals,” said a source from ONGC, requesting anonymity.