Tata Chemicals, in association with the Wildlife Trust of India and the Gujarat state forest department, has made a first-of-its-kind attempt to move live coral fragments over a distance of over 1,200 kilometres – from the Lakshadweep islands to the Mithapur Reefs off Gujarat coast. The plant in Mithapur is near the Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park, a biodiversity hotspot. The project has been instrumental in the creation of 3,149.6 square metres of additional hard surface area in the form of artificial reef structures. This corporate social responsibility initiative aided by Tata Chemicals will now serve as a foundation for the research community working on coral conservation.
These conservation efforts have enhanced fish caught in the project area to over 3 kg /hour as compared to 0.6 to 0.7 kg /hour earlier, and increased fish diversity from 55 species in 2010 to 64 species in 2020. The rare seahorse and the Starry Pufferfish (Arothron stellatus) made a reappearance – these are species recorded only twice before in the Indian waters. Apart from these, 63 species of molluscs and 12 species of seaweed have also been recorded.
A scientific advisory council (SAC) and a governing council (GC) comprising of experts in marine biology and the forest department were constituted for the project activities. The reef-dependent fishermen were educated and trained for coral reef protection. Limestone boulders were used to build an artificial reef at Mithapur and a coral nursery has been raised to facilitate the development of a coral garden using locally available coral species.