Remembering biodiversity

Remembering biodiversity

TThe United Nations has declared May 22 as The International Day for Bio-Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. IDB was created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly on December 29, 1993 and it was adopted in December 2000.

Since the year 2000, every year the day is being celebrated with a theme.  Dedicated to forest biodiversity (2002),  Biodiversity and poverty alleviation - challenges for sustainable development (2003), Biodiversity: Food, Water and Health for All (2004), Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World (2005), Protect Biodiversity in Drylands (2006), - Biodiversity and Climate Change (2007), Biodiversity and Agriculture (2008), Invasive Alien Species (2009), Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation
(2010) and  Forest Biodiversity (2011) were the themes in last 10 years.

In 2012, the UN decided to celebrate The International Day for Biological Diversity with the theme ‘Marine Biodiversity’. This theme has been selected as an opportunity to provide information about marine life and to raise awareness on the issue and increase practical action.

Marine life

From 2000 to 2010, a worldwide collaboration by scientists around the world set out to try and determine how much life is in the sea. Titled ‘Census of Marine Life,’ the effort involved 2,700 scientists from over 80 nations, who participated in 540 expeditions around the world. At the end of census, scientists estimated that the total number of marine species could be at least a million. Some think the figure could be twice as high.

Why should we bother?

India has a role to play in saving marine biodiversity as major part of the country is surrounded with salt water. Karnataka itself has around 320 kms of coast line and fishery is one of the very important trades of the State. Just like many other parts of the world, marine life is in danger here because of many reasons.

Marine biodiversity is in trouble mainly because of pollution. According to a study, 80 per cent of the marine pollution comes from land based activities.

Oil and fertiliser

Oil spill cause huge damage to the marine environment. According to a study, 36 per cent of oil contents go down the drains and rivers as waste from cities and industrial areas. Fertilisers run off from farms is another problem in coastal areas. The extra nutrients cause eutrophication- flourishing of algal blooms that deplete the water’s dissolved and suffocate other marine life.

Garbage, sewage disposal

Solid garbage also makes its way to the ocean. Plastic bags, balloons, glass bottles, shoes, packaging materials are reaching sea in huge quantities everyday. Plastic materials block the breathing passages and stomachs of many marine species including whales, seals, puffins and turtles.

Many parts of the world sewage flows untreated or under- treated, into the ocean. This sewage can also lead to eutrophication. Disposal of chemicals and consumer products can also harm the marine species.  

What can we do?

Though dumping of most toxic materials into the sea was banned by the London Dumping Convention in 1972, the decision has not been implemented in India strictly even to this day. The reasons are many.

According to Yathish Baikampady, a social activist from Mangalore, “Industrialisation is unstoppable as it brings more revenue. People are getting jobs, so nobody wants to lose this for the sake of marine diversity.”

On protecting marine species, he said that artificial reefs would help save endangered sea species, especially fishes. It can give shelter to fish. Fishing should be prohibited in such areas. However, there is no problem for fishery as fishes move outside the reef when they grow.

“High mechanization brings problems to the marine diversity. Trawling should be decreased as much as possible. The government, industrialists and fishermen should think about saving marine asset along with the industry,” he added. 

Fisherman Lathish agrees that the amount of fish they get is less these days. “Fishing through mechanical boats has brought some changes these days,” he said.

Speaking to City Herald,  Fisheries department Assistant Director P Parshwanath said that the government has taken steps to increase the production of fish and help fishermen.

“For the conservation of fishes as well as the industry, we ban fishing during rainy season (June 15 to August 10). Prawns fingerlings are released to sea every year,” he said.

“High mechanisation definitely affects fishery. Hence, the government has banned boats with more than 10 HP power in the ban period. Unfortunately, it is difficult to stop the growth of industries, so it is very difficult to manage both. Higher authorities have to do something,” he opines. 

It is time to think about marine asset and to take some workable actions to save the beautiful world which is under the water.

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