Indian marine biologists have successfully relocated more than 300 coral reefs in a creek in the Arabian Sea, raising hopes of more transplants of the threatened species, officials said.
In undersea gardens that act as shelter and nursery to a wide range of marine species, the corals grow slowly, some only a few centimetres a year, so their recovery from damage caused by tsunami or from industrial development could take decades.
India’s National Institute of Oceanography began relocating the corals in mid-January in the Gulf of Kutch in the Arabian Sea in a bid to avoid damage to the marine ecology due to the laying of an undersea petroleum pipeline and rising sedimentation.
During relocation each coral was checked, dead portions cut and then safely picked up from the inter-tidal area in the Gulf of Kutch and relocated in new reef, just 1 km (0.6214 miles) away from the original location.
The coral relocation project has been funded by Essar Oil Ltd., which is building a new refinery in Vadinar in western Gujarat state’s Jamnagar district. The marine national park in the Gulf of Kutch is spread over nearly 177 square miles with a rich collection of corals of different shapes and sizes.
“Corals have suffered extensive damages in the tsunami and also due to rapid industrialization. We did not want to take any more chances,” said Rakesh Asari, the conservator of the oldest marine national park of the country in Jamnagar.
Experiments of relocating corals have not been very successful in the past, but Indian scientists say the pilot project could spur more such initiatives especially after the recent tsunami damaged corals in the Indian Ocean rim.
Marine ecologists face the challenge of not just moving the corals but to also find a location with an ecological condition where they survive and grow.
The scientists studied the environment, temperature, salinity and micro organisms of the new location, comparing them with the area where the corals existed before making the transplant. The corals have been tagged with acrylic for monitoring their growth.