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What are Tarballs?

Tarballs Were Seen Lying On The Shore Of Mumbai Beach:

Black oil-emanating balls also called Tarballs were seen, lying on the shore of Mumbai Beach.

  • Tarballs are dark-coloured, sticky balls of oil that form when crude oil floats on the ocean surface. They are formed by weathering of crude oil in marine environments.
  • Some of the balls are as big as a basketball while others are smaller globules. They are transported from the open sea to the shores by sea currents and waves.
  • Most of the time, the presence of several tarballs indicate an oil spill.
  • However, its annual occurrence on the west coast during the monsoon has led marine biologists and experts to demand an investigation in the matter.
  • Oil-well blowouts, accidental and deliberate release of bilge and ballast water from ships, river runoff, discharges through municipal sewage and industrial effluents also leads to the formation of tarballs.
  • Once tarballs hit the beaches, they may be picked up by hand or by beach-cleaning machinery.
  • Concerns:
    • Tarballs that travel towards the coast can get stuck to the fishing nets installed in the sea, making it difficult for fishermen to clean.
    • In addition, it could affect marine life, especially filter feeders like clams and oysters.
    • Tarballs are difficult to break down, and can therefore travel for hundreds of miles in the sea.
    • Tarball pollution is a major concern to the global marine ecosystem.