One of the conclusions of the first UN ocean conference, 2017 held at New York was that the marine areas especially the seabed ecosystems which are biologically and ecologically important should be studied, assessed and conserved. Owing to the lack of enough knowledge on ocean, most of us live our lives unaware of the significance of role of ocean in our day to day life and how anthropogenic dealings area menacing ocean’s health.
Despite having groundbreaking researches been already done on ocean, we have so far covered just 5% of the ocean’s floor. As far as the need for conserving marine biodiversity of India, The study findings will be an important mile stone. Besides a couple of ecologically sensitive locations that have already been identified, there is a serious lacuna in documentation of people’s traditional knowledge of interacting with marine environment, especially that of fishers expertise who have been involved in identification of these areas and managed it with sustainable fishing practices centuries prior to the modernization phase. Lack of such information and understanding is a hindrance in evolving effective conservation policies that would integrate people and their livelihoods while conserving the environment.
The data regarding seabed of any country is a national asset. The geophysical and biological mapping of any potential area provides valuable information on the environmental condition of that particular zone which can be used as a potential tool in socio-economic aspect and provide decision support for best practices even in fishing. Sea bed mapping has become a critical tool in fisheries management and thus, it is becoming increasingly important to obtain acquiring information on different marine habitats to facilitate the sound management, development and protection of sensitive areas.
According to the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification in 2011, our territorial waters, up to 12 nautical miles of sea area have to be mapped. Hence, the data from the study will be relevant to the identification of fish habitats and spawning / nursery areas of marine creatures including fish, potential fishing grounds (both natural and artificial reefs) and highly polluted areas such as marine debris and ghost net pockets.
Friends of Marine Life (FML) is a coastal civil society organization which has been undertaking the underwater studies related to seabed ecology, biodiversity documentation, underwater clean-ups etc. since 2012 and the study findings are being published in mass media widely. FML has the capability to bring out the coastal community knowledge on their sea bed and its ecosystem that is usually been explained in their coastal dialect which has been a great barrier for the scientific community in interpreting and utilizing their knowledge. FML also has a ten member SCUBA diving crew which is capable of taking up underwater exploration studies to the maximum of 43-meter depth.
According to traditional fishing community the seabed ecosystem is fragile, biodiversity rich and is sensitive to human activities. But our scientific community still has poor idea about the marine natural ecosystems which the traditional community uses for their livelihood. In a situation where myriads of anthropogenic activities are menacing the ocean health, it is necessary to document the present situation of the geo-morphological and biological condition of seabed. Thus, strong steps can be taken to freeze any further unscientific human interventions in the name of coastal constructions or destructive fishing methods that threaten the life of marine system and fishers as well.
“ Let’s start exploring the underwater realm for the better future ”