Two units of Marine Elite Force will be set up in the State to combat marine wildlife crimes, including smuggling, prevention and poaching of marine animals, particularly in the Gulf of Mannar biosphere and Palk Bay.
Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forests Department, has passed an order sanctioning ₹1.09 crore for establishing the units.
Each unit will have five marine watchers to be engaged on a contract basis. They will be moving around in two deep water boats. For intelligence collection and data sharing, these units will interact with other stakeholders like customs, coast guard and naval officers apart from marine police and fisheries officials.
The primary objective is to strengthen the protection and sustainable management of marine area and watch out for disasters affecting marine and coastal wildlife.
The Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay occupy nearly a 675 kilometre-long coastline. The Gulf of Mannar is home to significant ecosystems like coral reefs, rocky shores, sandy beaches, mudflats, estuaries, mangroves, seaweed stretches and seagrass beds. It is also home to endangered corals, crustaceans, molluscs, apart from seasonally migrating marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, porpoises and marine turtles. These two areas are considered biologists paradise with over 4,223 species of flora and fauna documented over several decades.
The marine resources are constantly exploited for economic reasons and the protected species are also hunted illegally as they fetch huge prices in domestic and international illegal wildlife markets. Marine turtles, sea cucumbers, sea horses, sharks and rays, pipe fishes, dugongs, dolphins and sea shells face extraordinary hunting pressure, Ms. Sahu said, explaining the reason behind setting up the Marine Elite Force.
DPR for Dugong Conservation Reserve
In another order, Ms. Sahu sanctioned funds to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) for declaration of Dugong Conservation Reserve in Palk Bay, the first in the country. Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj has submitted a concept note towards establishment of the reserve and said the Union Government’s concurrence needs to be obtained for the notification.
The DPR will be prepared by engaging a reputed institution based on clearances obtained from the Department of Fisheries, Chief Naval Hydrographer and other departments connected with marine activities.
Collectors of Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts had held talks with fishing village communities and in both the districts, the communities have accepted the proposal to set up the conservation reserve.