The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has initiated a programme to prepare a Marine Biodiversity Register (MBR) documenting the underwater ecology of the inshore areas and the traditional knowledge systems of fishermen in the State.
The pilot phase will cover a 20-km stretch of the Thiruvananthapuram coast from Valiathura to Puthukurichy. The KSBB has taken up the project in association with Protsahan, a Thiruvananthapuram-based NGO. The project is expected to help demarcate marine protected areas, reconstitute the areas undergoing habitat destruction, and formulate ecosystem-based fishing management policies.
It will also suggest measures to protect the marine ecology in the biodiversity-rich coastal waters.
“The conservation measures will be relevant for the large number of traditional hook-and-line fishermen in Thiruvananthapuram,” says Chairman, KSBB, Oommen V. Oommen.
“Unlike the Panchayat Biodiversity Register which is prepared by local-level Biodiversity Management Committees, the MBR requires the expertise and involvement of fishermen.”
Reefs and rocky areas
The project seeks to create a biodiversity register of ecologically important reefs and rocky areas. It will record the demersal (fish living and feeding on or near the bottom of the sea) species around the reef areas. The MBR will document traditional knowledge on navigation, bottom configuration of the seabed, ocean currents, and wind patterns. It will also provide indicators to overfishing and marine resource depletion.
The pilot phase involves the preparation of a map of natural reefs in the region and documentation of the kinds of seasonal fishing. It will cover a depth of up to 25 fathoms of inshore waters. The reefs and their characteristics will be documented with the help of GPS and the details plotted on a map. Charts of important fish species with local and biological names will be prepared.
“Much of the available information on marine biodiversity of the region is based on secondary data generated by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, National Institute of Oceanography, Fishery Survey of India, Department of Aquatic Biology, University of Kerala, and NGOs,’’ says K.P. Laladhas, member secretary, KSBB.
“This project is all about generating baseline data. In the next phase, we hope to cover the area up to the international waters using scuba divers and better equipment,” he said.
Protsahan has proposed the documentation of reefs with underwater images and filming of flora and fauna in the next phase.
The core group including fishermen has made several scouting trips in the coastal waters.