PANAJI: The gooey brown stuff that currents are depositing onto Goa’s beaches are turning people away. This could spin off into a major problem for the tourism industry.

“The sea is not fit to go in,” said Laxi, a visitor from Bangalore who was at Benaulim. Hotels have been hit and L’Amour in Benaulim has lost five guests in the last couple of days.

“It is an unsavoury sight, not pleasant at all. Our guests had never seen anything like this,” said Shrikant Wakharkar, GM of Intercontinental Goa.

Environment minister Aleixo Sequeira acknowledged this was a problem but expressed helplessness in containing it. “The substance washing onto the shores is oil released by ships in the high seas. Protocols are plenty, but what is important is monitoring this. I think that would fall under the purview of the government of India,” he said.

About 72% of oil pollution is caused by vessels illegally cleaning their tanks at sea. Though ships engaging in this can be discovered by a thorough check of their oil record books, this is often done in a shoddy and random manner, says a Goan engineer.

Scientist from the National Institute of Oceanography, Dr Baban Ingole said this coating on the beaches of Goa affects natural life and could be injurious to the health of people.

It is only at the end of the summer and the early monsoon that the beaches get sullied by the oily substance. The churning of the sea and the change in the direction of currents brings the this to the shore.

While not every beach in Goa has been fouled, the problem extends from Ashvem in the North to Canacona in the South, with various beaches in between facing the problem.

Luckily for Goa, the tourism season is drawing to a close and there are fewer tourists in the state, otherwise this could have had disastrous effects on the industry. TTAG president Ralph D’Souza said, “If it happens at the peak tourist season it will be a major problem.”