The Hindu , 14 July 2006

Documenting marine life

Ramanathapuram: The much-awaited process of documenting marine species in the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, India's richest marine biosphere, using underwater cameras, has begun.

Though the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park (GMMNP) and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GMBRT) bought these cameras two years ago, they were not used in the absence of cameramen with specialised skill.

Those proficient in using underwater cameras need to know scuba dividing. The existing photographs on the underwater species available with the GMMNP were sourced from various research institutes dealing with marine biology.

Now, GMMNP officials have collected underwater photographic treasures of the Karichalli Island, one of the 21 islands of the GMMNP, with the help of scuba divers from Goa. They have taken hundreds of photos of underwater animals including several species of corals, fin and shellfish varieties, sea grasses and others off Karichalli Island.

The divers also examined the wreckage of a small ship, which sank several months ago off the coast of Vembar. Many marine species were found in it.

"The photos taken by the underwater cameras have clearly established the rich wealth of the biodiversity of the region. The view of the scuba divers is that many unknown species can be recorded, if rigorous efforts are taken. They were surprised to see the fast growth of marine species on the shipwreck," said S. Shenbagamoorthy, Wildlife Warden, GMMNP. He said the GMMNP had planned to capture the images and marine eco system of all 21 islands and other parts of the Gulf of Mannar. Services of experts would be utilised for bringing out these underwater treasures. They would be properly documented with various details of the species and would be useful for researchers and students. A calendar would also be launched to create awareness among people, he added.