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Fascinating information on marine bio-diversity

D.J. Walter Scott
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Paintings of marine wealth in Gulf of Mannar region will hold visitors spellbound

LIFELIKE:A model of a whale at the entrance of interpretation centre at Kundhukal in Rameswaram.— Photo: L. Balachandar
LIFELIKE:A model of a whale at the entrance of interpretation centre at Kundhukal in Rameswaram.— Photo: L. Balachandar

: Do you know there would be no life in the sea without Plankton? A sea wasp can kill a man in a matter of seconds? Over 1,05,00,000 tons of Crustaceans are caught every year? There are about 32,000 species of fishes worldwide.

To know more fascinating details about marine bio-diversity, one should visit the Gulf of Mannar Interpretation Centre, an eco-tourism facility created by the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GOMBRT) on the shores of Kundhukal beach, adjacent to the Swami Vivekananda Memorial Building near here.

The interpretation centre, which houses life-size models of coral reefs, sea cows and sea turtles, is the first of its kind in the country (mainland) created by GOMBRT to create an awareness of the rich marine wealth of the region among students, fisher folk and other stakeholders, Mr S Balaji, Chief Conservator of Forests and Trust Director, told .

The centre, which has been set up at a cost of about Rs 80 lakhs and thrown open to the public recently, would eventually foster sustainable use and management of the marine resources, aiding its conservation in the long run, he said.

As the centre is located adjacent to the Vivekanandar Memorial, no doubt, it would also serve as an excellent eco-tourism destination to over five lakh spiritual tourists who visit the holy pilgrim island of Rameswaram annually, he opined.

A life size whale at the entrance greets the visitors at the entrance of the solar powered green building. The eye-catching paintings of rich marine wealth in the Gulf of Mannar region, both, inside and outside the walls and on the ceiling, would hold the visitors spellbound. The information boards throw fascinating information on the marine resources.

The Interpretation centre would be a resource centre for students, who intend to take up marine bio-diversity studies as it gives details of Gulf of Mannar bordering Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts in Tamil Nadu, which has rich biological and ecological assemblages with very high level of productivity.

The eco-tourism facility has been entrusted with the Ramakrishna Mutt for further upkeep and maintenance. The Mutt, which is maintaining the Vivekananda Memorial, has been allowed to charge a nominal entrance fee of Rs 5 per visitor for the maintenance of the centre. The entry would be free for school children.

The Gulf of Mannar had drawn the attention of conservationists even before the initiation of “Man and Biosphere programme” by UNESCO in 1971. In 1986, an area of 560 sq km, covering 21 uninhabited islands, surrounded by coral reefs, was declared a national park and in 1989, the entire 10,500 sq km marine space between Rameswaram and Kanyakumari was declared as Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.

This has eventually become the first marine biosphere reserve in the country, an information board said.

A board on Plankton claims that there would be no life in the sea without Plankton, the multitude of largely microscopic organisms, which drift on the surface. If the entire community life in the sea can be likened to a pyramid and at the base is the plankton. At the top of the pyramid are the relatively few large fish and whales which would not exist without all the intervening layers of the pyramid to sustain them, it says.

Another board gives startling details about Molluscs, which is the largest marine phylum, containing about 85,000 recognized extant species and still are an important food source for humans.” Some species are venomous and the bite of the Blue-ringed octopus and stings of some cone shells could be fatal to humans,” it warns.

A board on Crustaceans says there are 50,000 or so described species, sizes of which, ranged from 0.1 mm to a spider crab with a leg span of over 3.5 m and a weight of 20 kg.

“Many crustaceans are consumed by humans and over 1,05,00,000 tonnes are caught every year.

The vast majority of output is of decapods crustaceans (crab, lobsters, shrimp and prawns) and more than 60 per cent (by weight) of all crustaceans caught in the Gulf of Mannar region for consumption are shrimp and prawns,” it says.

There are 32,000 species of fishes worldwide and they could be recognised as three groups - parasitic jawless fishes (lampreys and hagfishes), cartilaginous fishes (sharks and rays) and bony fishes (most of the common fishes known to us), another board says.

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