Govt. urged to declare submerged coral reefs as ecologically sensitive
Context:The College of Fisheries, Mangaluru, has urged the Union government to notify groups of submerged coral reefs off coastal Karnataka as ecologically sensitive and treat them on par with Lakshadweep Islands and eco-sensitive areas under the Wild Life Protection Act.
- These coral reefs are about 120 nautical miles (about 220 km) from Mangaluru.
- The Survey of India has named them as Bassas De Pedra, Cora Divh and Sesostris Bank.
- They may be the extension of Lakshadweep Islands towards the north from the Lakshadweep waters.
- Submerged reefs are at a height of around 40 m-50 m from the sea bed.
- The reefs are known to harbour some of the endangered species such as sharks, spotted skates and rays, lobsters, shells which are listed under Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act, including large biodiversity comprising seaweeds and sea fans. These have not been explored so far.
- There has been over-fishing and over-exploitation of the coastal waters, information has been received that certain fishing communities from neighbouring States are also exploiting some of the endangered and scheduled animals off the Karnataka coast.
- The area has been neglected; hence, the fishing communities from other States have resorted to fishing using illegal methods and nets such as gill netting through monofilament material.
- He said that the gears/nets are dangerous and extremely destructive and could catch several of these beautiful animals.
The Indian Coast Guard Act 1978 under Chapter III Duties And Functions of The Coast Guard Para 14 (2)(c) can implement provisions for prohibiting exploitation in ecological sensitive areas within the EEZ. Further, the Coastal Security Police and the Fisheries Department also need to inspect the area and take stock of the situation as it is informed that around 80-100 fishing boats are known to be operating in these areas.