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Fishermen Dying Their Nets Bright Red In Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock On May 16, 2018


by Kylen Salomon



Welcome to Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock, a bustling fishing hub located on the eastern coast of India. In this vibrant and diverse city, fishermen have been engaging in a unique and intriguing practice – dying their nets bright red. This eye-catching sight has captured the attention of both locals and tourists alike, sparking curiosity and fascination.


With its rich history and cultural heritage, Mumbai’s fishing industry holds a significant place in the city’s economy and way of life. The tradition of dying nets red has been passed down through generations of fishermen, becoming a defining characteristic of their trade. While this practice may seem unusual to outsiders, it carries a deeper meaning and is essential to the livelihood of these hardworking individuals.


In this article, we will delve into the background of Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock and explore the reasons behind why fishermen choose to dye their nets red. We will also examine the impact of this practice on the fishing industry and address any environmental concerns associated with it. So, let’s embark on this journey and unravel the secrets behind the vibrant red nets of Mumbai.


Background of Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock

Sassoon Dock, located in Colaba, Mumbai, is one of the oldest and busiest docks in the city. It has a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century when it was established by David Sassoon, a prominent Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist and businessman. Since its inception, Sassoon Dock has been a vital center for the city’s fishing industry, serving as a hub for fishermen to bring in their fresh catch.


Over the years, Sassoon Dock has witnessed a significant growth in its activities, attracting fishermen not only from Mumbai but also from neighboring regions. Today, it is a thriving marketplace where fisherfolk gather early in the morning to unload their day’s catch, which is then sorted, auctioned, and distributed to various parts of the city.


What sets Sassoon Dock apart is not just its historical significance, but also its vibrant atmosphere. The dock is a sensory delight, with the sights, sounds, and smells of the fishing industry intermingling in a mesmerizing symphony. From the calls of the fishermen to the rhythmic clanking of boats against the dock, the energy of Sassoon Dock is palpable.


Visitors to Sassoon Dock will also be treated to a colorful assortment of boats. Traditional wooden fishing boats, known as koli wadis, can be seen lining the waters, adding a touch of charm and nostalgia to the scene. These boats, meticulously maintained by the fishermen, have become iconic symbols of Mumbai’s fishing culture.


But perhaps the most striking visual element of Sassoon Dock is the sight of the fishermen’s nets, dyed in a vibrant shade of red. This unique practice has become a hallmark of Mumbai’s fishing community, attracting attention and intrigue from onlookers.


Now that we have a better understanding of the historical and cultural significance of Sassoon Dock, let’s delve deeper into the captivating tradition of dyeing fishing nets red.


The practice of fishermen dying their nets red

One of the most visually captivating aspects of Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock is the striking sight of fishermen’s nets dyed in a vibrant shade of red. This practice holds great significance within the fishing community and has become an integral part of their trade.


The process of dyeing the nets red involves soaking them in a mixture of natural dyes and chemicals to give them their distinct color. Traditional methods may involve using natural dyes derived from plants or insects, while modern techniques often incorporate synthetic dyes for convenience and efficiency.


The red color serves a practical purpose for the fishermen. It not only enhances the visibility of the nets in the water but also acts as a deterrent to birds, preventing them from getting tangled and damaging the nets. Birds are naturally attracted to the colors white and blue, which are commonly found in the marine environment. By dyeing the nets red, fishermen effectively reduce the chances of avian interference during their fishing expeditions.


Moreover, the use of red nets also aids in distinguishing between different fishing groups. With the dock bustling with activity and numerous nets in close proximity, having a unique color helps fishermen recognize their own nets easily and prevents any mix-ups or conflicts.


Beyond the practical aspects, the tradition of dying nets red holds symbolic significance for the fishermen. For many, the color red is believed to bring good luck and prosperity. It is seen as an auspicious color that wards off evil spirits and brings blessings for a bountiful catch.


The act of dyeing the nets red also symbolizes the love and dedication that the fishermen have for their craft. It signifies their commitment and deep-rooted traditions that have been passed down through generations of fishermen. Each dyed net is a testament to their hard work, resilience, and the challenges they face on the open seas.


The practice of dying nets red is not limited to Sassoon Dock alone. Similar traditions can be observed in other fishing communities around the world, each with its own unique cultural significance and symbolism.


As we continue our exploration of Mumbai’s fishing industry, let’s now examine the reasons behind the choice of red as the preferred color for these vibrant nets.


Reasons behind dying nets red

The choice to dye fishing nets red in Mumbai’s fishing community is not arbitrary. It is rooted in practical reasons as well as cultural beliefs that have been passed down through generations. Let’s explore some of the reasons behind this fascinating practice.


Enhanced Visibility: The vibrant red color of the nets greatly improves their visibility in the water. This is especially important during early morning or late evening fishing expeditions when lighting conditions are not optimal. Red stands out against the blues and greens of the sea, making it easier for the fishermen to see and retrieve their nets.


Deterrence of Birds: Birds, such as seagulls and cormorants, are natural predators of fish. Their presence can disrupt the fishing process and damage the nets. However, birds are known to be averse to the color red. By dyeing the nets bright red, fishermen create a visual deterrent that shooes away birds, reducing the risk of entanglement and damage to the nets.


Cultural and Superstitious Beliefs: The choice of red holds cultural and superstitious significance. In Indian culture, red is considered an auspicious color symbolizing prosperity, good luck, and protection from evil spirits. By dyeing their nets red, fishermen believe they are invoking these positive energies to ensure a successful and fruitful catch. The color red is also associated with the Hindu deity Lord Hanuman, who is believed to be a protector and provider of abundance.


Identification and Ownership: Sassoon Dock is a bustling marketplace where numerous fishing groups gather to sell their catch. By dyeing their nets red, fishermen can easily identify their own nets amidst the sea of others. This reduces the chances of confusion, mix-ups, and potential conflicts between fishing communities. The red nets become a visual marker of ownership and symbolize the hard work and dedication invested by the fishermen.


Tradition and Heritage: The practice of dyeing nets red is deeply ingrained in the fishing community’s tradition and heritage. It is a way of preserving and honoring the customs that have been passed down through generations. By continuing this practice, fishermen maintain a sense of connection with their ancestors and the long history of fishing in Mumbai.


While the practice of dying fishing nets red may have practical and cultural reasons, it also adds a vibrant and visually captivating element to Mumbai’s fishing industry. The picturesque sight of these red nets against the backdrop of the sea is not only visually appealing but also serves as a reminder of the rich traditions and livelihoods that depend on the bounties of the ocean.


Now that we understand the reasons behind dyeing nets red, let’s explore the impact of this practice on the fishing industry in Mumbai.


Impact of red nets on fishing industry

The practice of dyeing fishing nets red in Mumbai’s fishing industry has several significant impacts on the overall fishing process and the livelihood of the fishermen. Let’s explore the key effects of using red nets in the fishing industry.


Improved Efficiency: The use of red nets enhances the efficiency of fishing operations. The bright red color makes it easier for fishermen to spot their nets in the water, saving valuable time and effort in retrieval. This efficiency translates into increased productivity as more time can be allocated to actual fishing rather than searching for nets.


Reduced bycatch: By enhancing the visibility of the nets, the practice of dyeing them red helps reduce the accidental capture of non-target species, known as bycatch. Fishermen can better distinguish the desired fish from unwanted species, thereby minimizing the ecological impact on marine biodiversity. This aligns with sustainable fishing practices, promoting responsible fishing and conservation efforts.


Promotion of Fairness and Order: Mumbai’s fish markets, including Sassoon Dock, can be bustling places with multiple fishing groups selling their catch simultaneously. The use of red nets helps maintain order and prevent mix-ups among fishermen. Each fishing group can easily identify and claim their nets without confusion, promoting a fair and organized marketplace.


Symbol of Identity: The red nets have become a symbol of identity for the fishing community in Mumbai. They represent the profession, heritage, and history of the fishermen. The use of red nets contributes to a sense of pride and camaraderie among the fishermen, strengthening their community bonds and fostering a collective identity.


Attraction for Tourism: The vibrant red nets act as an attraction for tourists visiting Mumbai. The unique sight of these nets against the backdrop of the sea offers a fascinating glimpse into the local fishing culture. Tourists are often drawn to the authenticity and traditional practices of the fishing industry, creating opportunities for cultural exchange and supporting local tourism.


While there are numerous advantages to using red nets, it is worth considering the potential challenges and environmental concerns associated with this practice.


As we further explore the impact of dyeing nets red, let’s shift our focus to the environmental considerations surrounding this tradition.


Environmental concerns

While the practice of dyeing fishing nets red in Mumbai’s fishing industry has its practical and cultural benefits, it is important to address potential environmental concerns associated with this tradition.


Chemical Pollution: The process of dyeing nets often involves the use of chemical dyes, which can potentially contribute to water pollution. If these dyes contain harmful chemicals or heavy metals, they have the potential to leach into the water, impacting marine ecosystems and aquatic life. It is crucial for fishermen to adopt sustainable dyeing practices and utilize eco-friendly dyes to minimize the ecological footprint of this tradition.


Microplastic Pollution: Synthetic dyes used in modern dyeing techniques can contribute to the microplastic pollution problem. These dyes are often derived from petroleum-based materials and can shed microplastic particles during the dyeing process. These particles can accumulate in the marine environment and affect the health and well-being of marine organisms. Education and awareness regarding sustainable dyeing methods and the proper disposal of waste are essential to mitigate this concern.


Disruption of Natural Camouflage: The vibrant red color of the nets may disrupt the natural camouflage patterns of marine organisms. Some fish and other aquatic species rely on their ability to blend in with their surroundings to escape predation. The presence of bright red nets in the water may make it easier for predators to detect and prey upon these marine organisms. Minimizing the impact on natural camouflage should be considered when dyeing nets.


Alternatives and Innovations: To address these environmental concerns, exploring alternatives and innovative practices is essential. One option is to develop natural dyeing methods using plant-based pigments that are environmentally friendly and non-toxic. Additionally, advancements in sustainable fishing gear and materials, such as biodegradable or recyclable nets, can contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of the fishing industry.


Regulation and Awareness: It is crucial to establish regulations and guidelines surrounding the dyeing process to ensure responsible and sustainable practices. Providing education and raising awareness among fishermen about the potential environmental impacts is essential. By promoting environmentally conscious choices and encouraging the adoption of eco-friendly materials and methods, the fishing industry can strive for a more sustainable and harmonious coexistence with the marine ecosystem.


While the environmental concerns related to dyeing nets red should not be ignored, it is important to recognize the ongoing efforts within the fishing industry to address these issues and promote sustainable practices. By implementing responsible dyeing methods and supporting innovation, the industry can continue to thrive while minimizing its impact on the environment.


As we conclude our exploration of the impact of red nets in Mumbai’s fishing industry, let’s reflect on the significance of this tradition and the balance between cultural practices and environmental stewardship.



Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock and the tradition of dyeing fishing nets red provide a glimpse into the vibrant and culturally rich world of the city’s fishing industry. This practice, passed down through generations, carries practical and symbolic significance for the fishermen and serves as a visual testament to their dedication and heritage.


The choice to dye nets red not only enhances visibility and efficiency in the fishing process but also holds cultural and superstitious beliefs. It fosters a sense of identity and unity within the fishing community, while also attracting tourists and supporting the local economy.


However, it is important to address the environmental concerns associated with this tradition. Efforts should be made to minimize chemical pollution, microplastic contamination, and the disruption of natural camouflage. Seeking sustainable alternatives, promoting education and awareness, and implementing regulations can help mitigate these concerns and ensure a more environmentally responsible fishing industry.


Mumbai’s fishing industry provides a valuable lesson in striking a balance between tradition and sustainability. Through innovation and conscious choices, the industry can continue to thrive while minimizing its impact on the marine ecosystem.


As we bid farewell to the captivating red nets of Mumbai’s fishing community, let us appreciate the heritage, hard work, and resilience of the fishermen who contribute to the city’s cultural tapestry. May their traditions endure while embracing a more sustainable and harmonious future for both the fishing industry and the environment.