Returns from coral reefs off Gujarat coast rising

The study, claimed to be the first of its kind, was commissioned by the Gujarat Ecology Commission last year to evaluate the economic aspect of the coral reefs in around 250 sq  km in the Gulf of Kutch.

Gujarat Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and member-secretary of the commission E Balaguruswami said the state would draw up a coral atlas within a fortnight’s time.

“The coral reefs yield maximum value for fisheries apart from coastal protection and bio-diversity protection,” said the PCCF. The study revealed that the coral reefs and their associated systems in the Gulf of Kutch contributed to a total annual fish value of Rs.128 crore, which translated into a fish value of Rs.46.4 lakh per year per sq km. During the year 2008-9, the average annual fish catch value for the entire Jamnagar district was about Rs 313.8 crore, while in the coral-associated fishing areas, the fish catch value was about Rs 143 crore or nearly half of the total value.

Thus, any changes in coral reef health would have a significant impact on fish productivity and total revenue generation, the study said.

The state government was now all set to initiate an ambitious project of artificially transplanting corals across 20 sq km across the Gujarat coast. “We are now looking at building expertise in transplanting and monitoring the coral reefs along with identifying patches where we can create such reefs,” Balaguruswami said.

“The high productivity of coral reefs, which contain more species per unit area than any other ecosystem, within these otherwise unproductive waters makes them critical to the survival of the ecosystems and hence human beings,” the study maintained. Delhi University’s eminent environmental economist P Kumar was involved in the study, Balaguruswami said. The study covered benefits from the coral reefs accruing to sectors like fisheries, tourism and recreation, new drug and biochemicals and building material.

“It has also tried to monetise their natural gains like prevention of coastal salinity ingress and development of biodiversity,” he added.

The Gulf of Kutch lies between Kutch and the Saurashtra peninsula and covers an area of 7,350 sq.km. Admitting that the study had been necessitated by the drastic decline in the health of coral reefs all over the globe, Balaguruswami said the reefs helped reduce the impact of the waves on the shore.

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