Underwater survey off Puri coast confirms presence of coral reef

Puri: A team of 12 scientists of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochin have found traces of coral reef under the deep sea off the Puri coast.

Talking to media persons after the survey, Pralay Kumar Behera, scientist, CMFRI’s Research Station at Vishakhapatnam, said “For the first time, we conducted an underwater survey off Puri coast with five divers of Utkal Underwater Engineering Construction and Maintenance Services to trace the presence of coral reef and other species. This was an initiative taken by Dr Rita Jayshankar, scientist of CMFRI, Puri branch. The survey was exclusively to trace the presence of a Schedule-I species Gorgonia Ventalina, which also is known as the purple sea fan”.

“Our survey was to trace the coral which forms underwater bed in the sea. We did not find the coral but found the coral associated fauna known as Gorgonia Ventalina, which also is known as the purple sea fan which is a Schedule-I species from about 17 metres below the sea level. We also found a live rock bed of about half a kilometre. It is the live rock on which the corals secrete calcium carbonate particles and form a reef which is known as coral reef. We will conduct another survey in the area and hope that we find the presence of corals,” Behera said.

Talking about the survey, Jose Kingsley, scientist of CMFRI, Trivandrum, said it was a great experience for him.

He, however, said the team could not conduct the survey properly due to high underwater current. “But let me tell you that there is a lot of diversity in the sea off the Puri coast which we have taken note.”

Talking to OTV, Falguni Rout, proprietor-cum-diver of Utkal Underwater Engineering Construction and Maintenance Services, said the survey could not be taken up properly as the sea condition was rough.

He said though the team could not find coral in the area, it certainly found its traces with the presence of purple sea fan which confirms the presence of coral.

“Fishermen of Puri have told they have come across the presence of coral 32 km from the coast. We will survey the area in a couple of months if the CMFRI gives us the permission,” Rout informed.

Stating that this was the first-ever scientific expedition off the Odisha coast, Dr Rita Jayshankar said; “We had decided to conduct the survey after getting information from the local fishermen that their fishing nets were entangled in an area which they say was a hilltop under the deep sea about 17 km from the Puri coast. Earlier, a team had gone to that area for an underwater survey and it had brought some samples of purple sea fan. From then on, I had been pressing CMFRI to take up an expedition for underway survey off the Puri coast. Finally, the survey was conducted today,” she added.

She further said the team had the plans to conduct the survey in two places—Chandrabhaga and Penthakata—today. But the sea condition was so rough that the team was able to conduct the survey only from Penthakata.

“The team went up to 17 km from the coast and dived about 17 metres under the sea. But the divers were not comfortable due to high undercurrent. But team members said there is a rich biodiversity below the sea. The team has brought some live rock pieces on which the coral grows, and some purple sea fans which are the Schedule-1 animals,” Jayshankar pointed out.

Despite adverse weather conditions, the team has done a very good job during its two-and-half-hour survey.

“We had told the divers not to damage the substances they collect so that we can study them. Presence of live rocks and sea fans is a very good indication of the rich biodiversity of the sea in this area and we should make a thorough study on this ecosystem,” she added.

She further said that the CMFRI has planned to conduct a detailed underwater survey from Berhampur to Balasore coast during the fair weather.