Jellyfish, stingrays join Ganesh immersion in Mumbai

Scientists say rising sea temperatures have brought them to Mumbai coast for breeding

By Akshay Deshmane
Published: Friday 13 September 2013

jellyfishRising sea temperatures seem to have affected the health of Mumbai’s Ganapati devotees in an unusual way. More than 60 devotees had gathered for witnessing the ritual immersions of the idol at Girgaum chowpatty on Tuesday, suffered serious wounds in their feet after being stung by jellyfish and stingrays that had also assembled in hordes in the shallow waters off the coast. They were taken to hospitals.

Marine biology scientists from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) took samples of the marine organisms the next day and studied them. In the preliminary report of their studies, the scientists have found that rise in temperature of surface water along Mumbai’s coast in recent years, particularly the beach at Girgaum chowpatty, could be the cause for such a large gathering of the organisms near the coast.

“The surface water was hot and this prompted the marine organisms to gather at the coast for laying eggs,” said Vinay Deshmukh, principal scientist at CMFRI told Down To Earth. A statement released by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), citing CMFRI’s research, states: “The jellyfish arrive near the coast for laying eggs when the sea’s surface water temperature rises. However, if at such a time, rains start pouring suddenly, the fish accumulate in (large) groups. Such incidents keep on happening in the sea, but their frequency appears to have increased in recent years.”

The cylindrical marine organism is a species of box jellyfish. “The organisms contain neurotoxins and could cause partial paralysis. However, our study till now shows this species is not very toxic, unlike the one found at Visakhapatnam two years ago and in Australia every year,” explains Deshmukh. The second culprit is the stingray. It gathered near the coast in large groups because it is their breeding season. Their gathering in such large numbers is not new. The stingray stings are relatively less severe and can be treated by applying lemon liquid or antibiotics. Stings by box jellyfish can be treated by administering anti-hestamine drugs, he adds. 

The injured devotees have not suffered grievous injuries and most of them have been discharged from the hospital. It was the first ganapati idol immersion of the year. The CMO and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation have warned devotees against venturing into the sea during subsequent immersions. They have also advised people to make use of services provided by lifeguards and boats and suggested a ban on children entering into the sea.

“We will conduct studies in advance in areas where idol immersions will take place on the seventh and 11th day of the festival to alert people in advance,” says Deshmukh.

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