A day after Mumbai Newsline reported that at least a hundred marine fish including exotic species from Thailand and Malaysia had died at the Taraporevala Aquarium within two weeks of its reopening, authorities on Wednesday pulled up a private contractor and threatened to terminate his contract if his work was found to be inadequate.
“We are thoroughly questioning the contractor, Utekar Fisheries, and if we find his work is not proper, we will terminate the contract,” said Rajendra Jadhav, joint commissioner of fisheries. The department would then have to re-issue tenders and select another contractor.
Newsline reported Tuesday that around a hundred marine fish had died in two weeks. Two blue star fish had replaced all the jelly fish in a special sleek tank that had showcased the latter.
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High turbidity was observed in the cat fish and arowana fish tanks. Tanks that until a week ago had grouper fish of different kinds was empty. According to official sources, at least 44 fish had died this week alone.
The “revamped” aquarium had reopened on March 3, two years after it was shut for modernisation at a cost of Rs 22 crore.
Mahesh Pathak, secretary at the Animal Husbandry Department, explained away the deaths as “teething trouble” for the new aquarium.
“It is not possible to replicate the exact sea conditions inside a tank for these exotic fish, which are being brought for the first time to this aquarium and even the department does not have enough experience in handling them. We have spoken to experts and are trying to feed the fish anti-allergens and are maintaining the pH level to get the new fish accustomed to water in the tank,” he said.
Dismissing the possibility that the filtration system was faulty, Pathak attributed the fish deaths to pressure on them due to public behaviour.
“A major contributor is the pressure and load on these fish. The fish get stressed with all the tapping on the tanks. Even the star fish, sea urchins were squeezed and poked by people when they were allowed to touch them,” he said.
The filtration system, authorities claim, has sponges, UV irradiation facilities, charcoal and biofilters to remove all impurities.
“Arabian Sea water even has lead in it. But we have the best filtration system in place,” he said, unable to explain the high turbidity visible in some of the tanks. He added the the salinity maintained in the fish tanks was 20-25 PPT (parts per thousand), much lower than the 35-40 PPT in the Arabian Sea.
Moreover, the species such as sea turtles, already on display, are Schedule 1 species under the Animal Protection Act and their display requires the permission of the forest ministry. When asked about the permission, authorities said they did not have it as yet, but “have applied to appropriate agencies for the permission to display the protected species”.