In Visakhapatnam, organisations work towards documenting marine diversity and plastic pollution to protect the ocean ecosystem

The  big whale shark that got beached at Tantadi beach in Visakhapatnam

The big whale shark that got beached at Tantadi beach in Visakhapatnam | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A few months ago, a finless porpoise was washed ashore dead near Divis Bridge, about 40 kilometres from Visakhapatnam. This was the first record of the marine mammal beached in the coastal belt. The same time, a few kilometres away, a spinner dolphin was beached at Rushikonda. In the recent past, a video was shared by fishermen of a dead baleen whale floating in the waters closer to Visakhapatnam coast. In the past one year, there have been several incidents of marine species like humpback dolphins, whales, sea turtles washed ashore dead along the coast, setting off alarm bells among conservationists.

On World Oceans Day celebrated on June 8, organisations working towards Nature conservation and researchers reiterated the need to have a targeted study and sustained awareness campaign to shed light on the importance of oceans, the ecosystem it supports and conservation measures. "The situation has become more grave with each passing year. Most studies done so far have been targeted towards fisheries, but no systematic data collection has been done towards conservation of marine life in the coastal belt in Visakhapatnam," says Sri Chakra Pranav Tamarapalli, founder and project manager of Visakhapatnam-based East Coast Conservation Team.

Bycatch issue

Pranav is currently documenting the marine biodiversity of the region in association with Green Paw. "Visakhapatnam coast has a good population of sharks and rays. But only five species of sharks and rays are protected by law even though nearly 30 species are threatened," says Pranav. According to researchers, overfishing has been causing big trouble for sharks and rays. "Deaths due to hits by motorised boats are also a likely reason. Bycatch (the incidental capture of non-target species such as dolphins, marine turtles and rays) is another major reason," he adds. A study by Nature, a leading science journal, states that the global population of sharks and rays has crashed by over 70% in the past five decades. Efficient modern fishing gear exacerbates the extent of bycatch as the net often covers an extensive area which is highly unselective.

Plastic pollution

Balram Naidu and his team of scuba divers at Rushikonda have been cleaning up the ocean bed every year, removing tons of plastic. From rescuing marine species like the threatened Olive Ridley turtle entangled in ghost fishing gear to helping smaller fish species escape out of floating plastic waste, Balram has lost count of such incidents while pulling out plastic garbage from the sea. "Microplastics are engulfing the ocean ecosystem and every year it is getting worse," he adds. To raise awareness, he periodically organises coastal cleanups and underwater cleanups at Rushikonda.

A jelly fish that was spotted during scuba diving in Visakhapatnam

A jelly fish that was spotted during scuba diving in Visakhapatnam | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

This year, Visakhapatnam-based India Youth For Society (IYFS) launched its Clear Coasts Campaign (CCC) in March 2022 to raise awareness about marine littering and plastic pollution. Every Sunday, the team holds an awareness programme on the ill-effects of flowing drains into the sea and coastal plastic pollution in Visakhapatnam. "During the past 11 weeks, the volunteers collected over 430 kilograms of plastic waste. Proper waste disposal is an area we are currently addressing to safeguard our marine ecosystem," says Appala Reddy Yendreddi of IYFS.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 10:04:28 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/in-visakhapatnam-organisations-work-towards-documenting-marine-diversity-and-plastic-pollution-to-protect-the-ocean-ecosystem/article65510025.ece