Thiruvananthapuram: As many as 17 varieties of rare corals were found in Kovalam and Thumba following a three-year-long study undertaken by city-based NGO Friends of Marine Life (FML) and department of aquatic biology and fisheries, University of Kerala.
Researchers specializing in the field of coral reefs see the discovery as a great achievement considering its impact on eco-conservation and the path it could lead to unravelling the bio-diversity of Kovalam.
The team has unearthed the presence of numerous colonies of corals across the coasts of Leela Beach, Kovalam and St Andrews Beach near Thumba, which points to a positive development of a coral ecosystem developing in the city coast.
The corals were identified based on underwater photographs of coral colonies taken by FML’s scuba diving team.
FML registered around nine species of corals which were found in as many as 30 regions across the Leela Beach’s rocky bay. Corals including Porites lichen, Favites sp, Acropora digitifera, Pavona varians, Montipora hispida, Favites flexuosa, Goniastrea retiformis, Montipora foliosa and Coscinaraea exesa were all found in depths of 1m to 4m in Kovalam.
The study also revealed that there are no colonies to the south until Vizhinjam and north up to Thumba St Andrews beach. The coral colonies were found in depths of nearly 20m at St Andrews beach. The scuba diving team including Robert Panipilla, Muhammed Sadhik, Aneesha Ani Benedict and Abu Sally took the under-water photographs as part of the study.
Professor and head of aquatic biology and fisheries A Bijukumar said that all of the corals which were found in Kovalam and St Andrews beach are hard corals that are included in the Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act of India. “In Kerala coast these hard corals are rare and scattered in occurrence,” he said.
The discovery has called for conservation of corals in future. According to FML founding director Robert Panipilla, corals are very fragile in nature and needs utmost care to prevent damages.
“There is a spot in Kovalam, which is located directly above the bay of rocks which has the natural coral colony ecosystem. Burning of plastic is rampant in this region. Another issue we observed was in connection with fishing carried out by local fishermen in the region. As ornamental fishes are commonly found in coral colonies, the fishermen attempt to catch them which results in nets falling on top of the corals,” he said.
Panipilla also said that majority of the marine organizations are hesitant to use indigenous knowledge of local fishermen who know better about the sea.