The Truth Behind Eating Seafood In The Monsoon

By Mallika Dabke August 1, 2018
The truth behind eating seafood during the monsoons.

Being a coastal city has a charm of its own. A city’s muse is its food, and ours is blessed with a lush catch of fish and crustaceans each day. Annually, our state is put under the two-month fishing ban during the monsoons for fish stocks to replenish, and to keep our fishermen safe from the dangers of the rains when they’re out on the sea. While the ban has existed for many years for practical reasons, rumours about the dangers of eating seafood have been making the rounds within our communities for even longer. I did some digging around and spoke to some people who know the seafood industry inside and out, to understand the truth behind eating seafood during the monsoons.

You may have heard that the monsoon months coincide with breeding periods of fish. Once the ban is lifted towards the end of the monsoons, our sea’s stock is fresh and replenished to the max.

Fish at the docks - unspalsh

Freshly caught fish lands on the docks every single day.

Sunil Pandruvkar, a crew member on a fishing boat at the Versova dock, has first-hand experienced the plus side of the ban. He’s noticed a sudden increase in catch after the ban lifts every year, but the stock keeps reducing eventually. When I spoke to him, he explained to me in Marathi, that the fish just need some time to breathe and recuperate. Overfishing is rampant, and the pressure on fishermen and the fish grows by the day.

On speaking to the organisation Know Your Fish, I understood that of the 40 species of marine life caught and sold for consumption in India, the breeding patterns for them all vary. There are many species that breed in the summer and winter, and not necessarily in the monsoon. Which is why, they explained, that the ban is not the best solution for many species who may be vulnerable during their own breeding periods. “The fishing ban is actually in place because it is convenient; fishermen anyway don’t prefer to go out at sea during these months because of rough weather and choppy waves. Thus, eating seafood in monsoon is not a problem as long as you’re eating the fish that are not breeding in those months.”

So, is it safe to eat fish during the monsoons at all? It is, as long as you’re eating the right kind, and as long as it has been sourced correctly. Because of the ban, a lot of fish available in the markets and in restaurants, may be coming in from different coasts where there is no ban, so questions about its transport and distribution come up. Eating freshly caught fish is much healthier than eating frozen fish which has traveled for days before reaching your plate.

Rivers 2 Oceans, (R2O) in Palladium, Mumbai is a swanky and innovatively conceptualized freestyle restaurant focusing on global contemporary seafood. It can be best described as a paradise for sea-food lovers, offering seafood from around the world that has never been tried before. The restaurant will feature fresh ingredients from the sea, procured from countries like Japan, Russia, the Atlantic Ocean & Indian Ocean to curate the most avant-garde menu that took several months of conscientious efforts and thorough research. The  menu also features an array of vegetarian dishes created with the same meticulous focus and detail. The restaurant also features the country’s first champagne and caviar bar. Featuring the widest selection of champagne by the bottle and by the glass. Paired with a fine selection of the world’s finest caviar it is sure to entice the luxury seeker in all of us.  @_riverstooceans #instadaily #mumbai #food #foodgram #foodgasm #instapic #foodie #instamood #instagood #foodporn #igdaily #instatravel #travelgram #travelpassport #tourism #ilovetravel #contest #contestday #contestalert #Contestmumbai #Contestalertindia #giveaway #MumbaiBlogger #FoodBlogger #LifestyleBlogger #TravelBlogger #ProductBlogger #Fashionblogger

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Identifying and choosing the right kind of seafood is very important, not only during the monsoons, but all year round. Chef Saurabh Udina of Lower Parel’s Rivers To Oceans, a seafood restaurant, told us that restaurant-goers need not worry. Knowing where the seafood on your plate is coming from is very important. “We source our seafood from Indian coasts as well as international coastlines. In India, we get our produce from Gujarat, the Konkan region, Goa and Chennai including the Malabar region. Internationally we source from Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Atlantic region and Chile. All of our suppliers are accredited from appropriate agencies to ensure their ethics and sustainable fishing.”

Swipe to read: How much does a shrimp/prawn dish cost? Anywhere between Rs. 100 to 2500 depending on where you're eating. But what is the cost of that plate of shrimp beyond the price you're paying? For every kilogram of marine shrimp or prawn caught, four kilograms of bycatch is also trawled from the bottom of the sea (fact courtesy: @knowyourfish ), making shrimp one of the most unsustainable kinds of seafood. Shrimp trawling not only takes an unimaginable toll on marine biodiversity, which includes sharks, rays, reef fish, dolphins and turtles, but also damages coral reefs and benthic ecosystems. Ahead of World Oceans Day (8th June), I pledge to completely give up eating shrimp, at least unless India has banned trawling and more sustainable options are available. I hope you too will consider giving up, or at least reducing your shrimp consumption. The comic appears in my column with @sundaymidday http://www.greenhumour.com/2018/06/shrimp-trawling-and-bycatch.html #worldoceansday #oceans #shrimp #trawling #prawns #diet #food #sustainability #sustainablefood #bycatch #sharkconservation #sharks #turtles #greenhumour #fishing #overfishing #cartoons #comics #seafood

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Know Your Fish helped me with some simple things we can do as home-cooks and restaurant goers:

 

  • Choose local fish species which are in season.

  • Avoid buying juvenile fish if you’re shopping from a market. By not buying fish that are yet to reach sexual majority, you’re already making a big difference by decreasing its demand, which in turn decreases the supply.

  • Avoid frozen fish, since you never know where it’s coming from and whether the fish has been sustainably obtained, i.e. fished from a safe area where their numbers are not on a dangerous decline.

  • Avoid farmed or cultured fish. Farmed fish are largely fed with wild fish species like anchovies, sardines and fish meal made out of by catch caught during trawling. This puts more pressure on wild fish species which would otherwise be left aside/not caught. A lot of the farmed fish is also exported. This has social injustice issues wherein fish that poor people eat is fed to a farmed fish which eventually reaches a foreign restaurant and consumer miles away. In other words, it is depriving local people from access to cheap protein. 

Know Your Fish also showed me this chart they made below to help us choose fish during the monsoons more wisely.

know your fish chart

Image: http://knowyourfish.org.in

They update their social media and website very often with useful tips and tricks like this which can help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your seafood eating habits, especially if it is heavily featured in your regular diet.

We don’t need to boycott seafood during the monsoons. Instead, we just need to make better choices that keep ours, and the environment’s health the main focus of our conversations and practices. With organisations like Know Your Fish out there on digital platforms, our access to information has never been easier. So, go, don’t hold back, live those yummy seafood dreams, but keep sustainability in mind!