A fish that walks on mud using its fin is now dominating the shoreline of coastal Nagapattinam. Post cyclone Gaja, a tremendous amount of mud silt was deposited from the deep dead sea along the East Coast, paving way for the walking fish’s arrival.
POINT CALIMERE: The blue-spotted mudskipper (Boleopthalamus) often featured in science journals and wildlife documentaries (less economic value for fishermen) is now a prolific breeder along Delta mangrove swamps, whereas edible marine fish and prawn population in mangroves has dwindled post-Gaja. “Mudskippers can breathe through the skin and have the capacity to stay in mud for more than two days. Most of us don’t find it edible and this is now dominating the swamps of Kodiakkarai (Point Calimere) and parts of Nagapattinam,” said K Ramasamy, a fisherman based in Vedaranyam.
“In India, mudskippers are usually not consumed due to their anaerobic respiration which results in high sulphate and nitrate content. The skippers can go without oxygen for hours,” said professor V Sai Saraswathi, VIT, Vellore. A recent field visit by VIT students and interaction with local community revealed the presence of mudskippers and there is a need to study the long-term impact of Gaja, particularly the high deposition of mud silt, Saraswathi said.
“The amphibious mudskippers live in brackish water and wetlands. They can survive predator attacks in the mud, especially during high tide, for three days,” said A Mohammad Tharik, student of VIT Nature Club. Mudskippers fight over territories and the blue spots on them glow during breeding season, Tharik added.
“We don’t eat the mudskipper (called Kuzhi meen) in Keezhakarai region. They have strong pelvic and pectoral fins which double up like limbs. It’s very tough to catch these as they jump, swim, walk when encountered by fisherman,” said Mohamad Ismail, a fisherman based in Rameswaram.