Ahmedabad, Dec 5: The Wildlife Trust of India has increased the live coral cover at Mithapur, Gulf of Kutch by using artificial reefs.
According to Manager and Head Marine Conservation Project Wildlife Trust of India Sajan John, artificial reefs can play a critical role in saving the diverse and complex eco system of coral reefs.
Mr John said, “By using artificial reefs Wildlife Trust of India has increased the live coral cover at Mithapur by four percent which is significant considering the fact that massive corals reefs tend to grow slowly, increasing in size from 0.5 cm to 2 cm per year. However, under favorable conditions some species can grow as much as 4.5 cm per year.”
Corals are actually the hard exoskeleton (calcium carbonate) secreted by tiny sea animals called polyps that support and protect the polyps. Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of these polyps. The economic value of coral reefs has been estimated to be around 172 billion US dollars in terms of tourism,food,medicines.
An artificial reef is a man-made, underwater structure built for the purpose of promoting marine life. They are generally designed to provide a stable surface for algae and invertebrates such as corals and oysters to attach on, thereby attracting fish.
A total of 400 artificial reefs were created till the end of 2017, amounting to a surface area of 1016 sq.m, spread over a spatial area of 32,000 sqm.
They were created by piling up irregular boulders of limestone that is quarried from the nearby mines. The lime stone boulders are placed in clusters in a conical manner to protect marine life from harsh waves and currents, he added.
Mithapur which is outside the Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park had a lot coral reefs earlier but over the years due to destructive fishing practices , pollution, sedimentation 88 percent of live corals had disappeared, Mr John said.
Twelve years ago surveys showed that the reef of Mithapur comprises of just 12 per cent of live coral cover.
Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Tata Chemicals Limited and Gujarat Forest Department started coral reef recovery activities with artificial reef creation , setting up of no takes zone for fishing which had led to 4 percent increase in the live coral cover which is around 16 percent today,Mr John added.
To safeguard the established artificial reef and to sustain the fish production for livelihood of the reef dependent fishing community the no take zones were established with the participation of fishing communities.This is a model by which the project aims to bring win-win situation for both corals reefs and for coral reef dependent costal communities, Mr John said.
The Artificial Reefs at Mithapur were also instrumental at increasing fish stock of the region.
Mr Sajan John said fish surveys have revealed that the fish stock of the region has increased four times over the last two years.
While initial surveys for biodiversity inventorying revealed that the reef houses 55 species of fishes (surveys done during 2009-2010), latest surveys done during 2017 revealed that the reef fish diversity increased by the addition of 9 new species to the region (2 species are yet to be identified), he added.
The artificial reefs also played a role in attracting several fragile animals such as 5 species of sea horses and starry puffer fish. Indian Ocean hump back dolphins visit the shores of Mithapur on a regular basis during the colder months of Dec-Feb every year. Pairs of green sea turtle were also seen mating very close to the shore at Mithapur, Mr John said.
Fish population surveys also revealed that Artificial Reefs are housing 86 per cent of the diversity that is found on the natural reef,he added. (UNI)