Tarballs

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    • Recently, Girgaum Chowpatty, a famous tourist spot in South Mumbai, saw big, black oil-emanating balls  “tarballs” lying on its sandy beach

    What are Tarballs?

    • Tarballs are small light-absorbing, carbonaceous particles formed due to the burning of biomass or fossil fuels that deposit on snow and ice.
    • They are also formed by weathering of crude oil in marine environments. 
    • They are transported from the open sea to the shores by sea currents and waves
    • They are usually coin-sized and are found strewn on the beaches
      • However, over the years, they have become as big as basketballs and can weigh as high as 6-7 kgs.

                                                             Image Courtesy: FE

    • Indications:  
      • 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 into the matter.
    • Impacts:  
      • Tarballs travelling 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.
      • Tarball pollution is a major concern to the global marine ecosystem
        • Microbes such as bacteria and fungi are known to be associated with tarballs. They presumably play an important role in tarball degradation and some are potential human and animal pathogens.
        • The percentage of the tarballs increased on days of higher levels of pollution and could contribute to the hastening of glacial melt and global warming.
        • Tarballs can attract various heavy metals, including nickel, copper, and cobalt, to their surfaces. 
    • Tarball cases in the past: 
    • Noted cases of tarball occurrences have been witnessed at Goa beaches since 2010, in South Gujarat, Mangaluru and at Los Angeles beaches
    • There has never been a case of a beach closing down due to tarballs in India.

    Source: IE