Now, shore walks begin in Mumbai

Now, shore walks begin in Mumbai

Now, shore walks begin in Mumbai

For Mumbai, heritage walks are not new. Over the years, heritage walks are being conducted in Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) exposing people to the rich history, heritage, culture, people and food. They have become popular.

In the last few years, special heritage routes and tours have been launched and many individuals and companies have come forward to organise such walks in a professional way.

Now comes an entirely new concept --the shore walks-- that takes people to the rich marine biodiversity of Mumbai. In Mumbai shores one can see a lot from cone snails to red egg crabs to hook-nosed sea snakes to some rare sightings like Portuguese man-of-war to sea horses.

Marine Life of Mumbai (MLOM) has been formed by three enthusiasts-- Siddharth Chakravarty, an academic researcher who is currently studying labour supply chains on industrial fishing vessels; Abhishek Jamalabad, a marine biologist; and Pradip Patade, a self-taught marine expert. They have not made their presence felt in social media tools like Facebook and Instagram.

“It started earlier this year and has now grown to include a lot of volunteer participants such as Nikhil Sathe, Abhishek Satam, Sudesh Pansare, Sarang Naik and Gaurav Patil who help guide our field events and contribute to the page," said Abhishek. They are speaking to a lot of people and constantly evolving.

Speaking on how it started off, he said: “The idea for the initiative came about when Anand Pendharkar, an environmentalist based in Mumbai, put me in touch with Pradip Patade who was looking for marine biologists interested in Mumbai's marine life. Anand and Pradip had been following the issue of threat to the city's marine habitats closely, and Pradip had been documenting the biodiversity at south Mumbai's shores for many years and opposing development projects that would destroy it. Three of us met and had discussions about the same. I knew Siddharth would be interested and so I brought him on board as well."

The group had a few meetings and then came up with the idea of launching a participatory documentation/awareness initiative via social media, in the form it is in today.  

As far as shore walks are concerned, it is being conducted in places like Marine Drive, Girgaum Chowpatty, Haji Ali, Carter Road. “We have been doing research too in these places along the western seafront and Sewree on the eastern seafront,” Abhishek said.

“We come across interesting life forms when we go for sea walks. The aim of this platform is to serve as an open and public repository of information regarding the coastal biodiversity of the MMR. There is a huge diversity of creatures that share our coastline and would awe, excite and amaze you,” he said.

“We also have participants who come from beyond the MMR to join us on our excursions, and later explore the shores in their own areas. We are very happy about that, because at some point, those shores need to be documented systematically as well,” he pointed out.

“We have also received overwhelming response to each of our public walks, with  biologists, wildlife researchers, sociologists, commercial photographers, filmmakers, journalists, artists and students taking part in them. We hope this trend continues,” he added.

The MLOM team feels that people are largely unaware of the richness of biodiversity that Mumbai's marine areas.  Photo documentation of the biodiversity of some of Mumbai's shores was being done by Pradip Patade. This actually inspired the idea that people unfamiliar with marine biology could still play a huge role in documenting marine life. This has become one of the core ideas of MLOM.

During research trips and shore walks, MLOM team photo-documents a number of shores, with participants contributing a bulk of the images and records. “With new participants getting added in each walk, we hope to build up to a large network of people exploring and documenting the city's marine life on their own. We are gradually posting these images for people to access them,” he said.
Like skills of heritage walks, shore walks take a bit of practice to  notice marine life. “We have had a lot of participants telling us that they never noticed marine life during their beach walks, until they did a few walks with us and learned how to spot the creatures. With a little bit of skill, it is possible to spot sea anemones and a variety of snails and crabs on Mumbai's sandy beaches. On rocky shores, which are rarely visited by most people, the diversity is a lot greater--corals, colourful marine worms, a multitude of crabs, sponges, tide pool fishes, snails and pistol shrimps can be seen,” Abhishek said.

As of now, the group postings are restricted to some specific taxa like flora, invertebrates, fish, reptiles and aquatic or semi-aquatic mammals that one may find and photograph in the marine and brackish water habitats of the MMR, which may roughly be described as a confluence of fresh and saltwater, with considerable fluctuations in salinity and tidal amplitude.

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