R. Vimal Kumar
TUTICORIN: Thirteen new coral species have been identified in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. But the gulf's existing coral reefs are deteriorating rapidly, with their area shrinking by 30 per cent over the last two decades. These are findings of a survey conducted by the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) in the 560-sqkm park over the last four years.
The institute, affiliated to Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, has brought out a comprehensive report on the distribution, diversity and current status of coral reefs in the gulf.
According to the report, 117 species of coral exist in the park.
Moreover, the SDMRI team has found that live coral is present only on a 78 square kilometre area in the park. That is 32 sq km less of the coral cover found 20 years ago.
"The degradation happened mainly because of destructive fishing and sewage disposal," said J. K. Patterson Edward, Director, SDMRI.
The report maps the exact geographical locations of the live coral in the park, surrounding 21 coral reef islands. "This would make monitoring and conservation easier," said V. Naganathan, Eco-Development officer, Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust.
It can serve as baseline information about the gulf's ecosystem, and help organisations involved in protecting and enhancing marine resources.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Tuticorin Port Trust and a Sweden-based international coral reef network called the Coral Reef Degradation in Indian Ocean funded the research project.