Campa-Dugong and Seagrass Recovery Project - Report for outreach and Awareness Programmes


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June 2020
 

World Environment Day celebration

On the occasion of World Environment Day on 5th June 2020, one Program was organized by Nagar Palika Sanchalit Okha High school teacher Pooja Dave and her NGO, 11 students attended the program  6th to 12th std from two schools K.V Okha Port and O.N.P.S Highschool , Nagar. The theme for the day was the students had planted native plants and were asked to speak few lines about the importance of the plants. The program held in premises of Okha Marine Police station under supervision of the officials and the social distancing norms were followed as per the guidelines.

 

World Ocean Day Celebration

The world ocean day was celebrated on 8th June 2020. The theme of UN World Oceans Day 2020 was “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean. One beach clean up activity was conducted with the local Dugong Volunteers on Okha beach. 24 Students from the Nagar Palika Sachalit Okha Highschool, Okha Primary and Highs school along with their teachers Pooja Dave, Chandani Kotecha and Chahan Priti B.  attended this program coastal clean up drive was undertaken and the snacks with lemon water was distributed. All the students pledged to keep the ocean plastic free and minimize and recycle waste. Social distancing norms with protective measures were taken while this activity. Dy. Commandant M. K. Sharma from Indian coastguard also attended the program.

 

Marine Mammal stranding event

One female Pygmy sperm whale washed ashore on  7th June 2020 and was reported by Dwarka Range Forest Officer  Mr. Kamlesh Chudasama. The tissue samples were taken by the  regional forest department. This is 2nd record of stranding of Pygmy sperm whale on Gujrat coast after 2006.

 

Benthic fauna associated with seagrass

Benthic samples were sorted with the help of Accumax stereomicroscope Model No BPM-3TCPC for photo documentation and voucher specimen was photographed. After sorting the samples were stored in sterile Tarson sample containers of  PP/HDPE material of 100 ml capacity. The laboratory work was carried out in the Fishery research center, Okha.

 

May 2020

 

Dugong Day 2020 celebration

On the occasion of Dugong Day 28th May 2020, regional online quiz, painting, drama and essay competition were organized. About 40 Dugong volunteers from Okha village participated in local as well national level competition.    Essay competition was organized by school for local students from age group 10-15 years. 12 students from  5 Schools mainly Okha Nagar Palika school, Kendriya Vidyalaya Okha school, Saint Mary school, Bhimarana, Taluka shaala okha, V.A.M. Okha school attended and were felicitated. Total 14 participants from age group 10- 21 from V.A.E.M English medium school, D.A.V. Mithapur, SNDT school, V.V.P. Engineering college, A.B. Virani college, Nagar Palika Sanchalit Okha Highschool participated in essay writing competition. Total 11 students participated in Essay writing. With social distance norms program was conducted with participants and felicitated with tshirt caps and mugs. E certificate for participation for Dugong Day competition was sent by team. 2 groups of  Okha school students made drama on dugong conservation and threats.

 

Marine Mammal Stranding

One Finless Porpoise stranded on Saurashtra coastline on 19th May 2020.The information was provided by the Dwarka Range Forest Officer  Mr. Kamlesh Chudasama.

 
April 2020
 

No outdoor field activities and outreach activities were conducted in the April 2020 due to COVID 19 Lockdown. 

Post processing of benthic  samples

Sediment samples were washed with water and sieved in (500µm) in laboratory sorted according to group level. Biomass (Wet weight) was taken with the help of weighing balance and preserved in 70% alcohol in Tarson containers and labelled.

 
March 2020
 

Celebration of World wildlife day 3rd  March 2020

On World Wildlife Day 2020, we celebrated the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity. We will work to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits of wildlife to people, particularly to those communities who live in closest proximity to it, Documentary was shown to7-8 Standard students and distributed pamphlet of marine life in wildlife trade.

Image 35: Celebration of World Wildlife Day by showcasing documentary in Grampachyat Sanchalit Okha High school
 

Felicitation of Dugong ambassadors

To honor the students selected through scholarship examination for participating in Dugong conservation, were felicitated with T-shirts and awareness materials along with notebooks. 

 

Awareness materials posters for promoting the dugong conservation initiative will be displayed in Fishery research Institute.

Image 38: Dugong awareness material displayed in Fishery research institute , Okha
 
Seagrass surveys
 

Seagrass surveys: Intertidal zones

Seasonal seagrass survey efforts were made for Paga reef, Bhaidar islands and Tam reef. With the consultation and permission of the forest department, HOBO pendant loggers were set near meadows on each site. Permanent plots for the seasonal study were characterized and studied. Seagrass and sediment samples were collected using a 50x50 cm quadrat which was placed randomly. Seagrass in winters were sparse and the shoot increased with the onset of summers

Algal bloom was noticed in February. Ulva flexosa bloom was observed enveloping the central part of the Beyt-Dwarka meadow.

Herbivory exclusion devices were made and mounted on each site, but were later stolen by unknown vandals. This resulted in the discontinuation of the experiment. Foraging trails were hard to spot on a patchy meadow with sparse seagrasses, however in Pashu islands’ reef, where the meadow is continuous, several fresh trails were found.

The intertidal survey period was cut short due to the COVID 19 lockdown.

 
Dependence of fisher community on Beyt-Dwarka meadow.

The Fisher community of Beyt-Dwarka island depend greatly on the commercially valuable crustacean catch like lobster and crabs which has a market value of at least 100-120/Kg and 1120-180/Kg respectively. The sustenance of this community depends up on the meadow reared full-grown crabs and lobsters. Fisher-folks have been complaining about the decreasing trend of their catch with the decreasing meadow size. The detrimental effect on the meadow is pointed towards the alleged anchoring activity of trawlers which illegally dock near the island.

Image 39 (left) Fisherman maneuvering his boat across the Beyt- Dwarka bay
 
Baseline study of macro-benthic fauna associated with seagrass study Seagrass associated macrobenthos was also study during this season. Sediment samples were processed and fixed on-field. The samples were brought to lab for further qualitative analysis. The result was very encouraging as juveniles of various groups were observed. These groups included Echinoderms, Molluscans, Crustaceans, etc.
 
February 2020
 

Marine debris survey

Items larger than 30 cm were recorded and sediment samples were collected. StandingStock Surveys for marine debris for dissertation study.

Seagrass survey

Seagrass surveys to North East of Pagar reef, Sargassum bloom is reported

 

Seagrass associated Macrobenthos sample collection

Baseline data collection for seagrass associated fauna. Seagrass associated Macrobenthos  subtidal  sample collection for Dunny point and Pagar reef   was collected.

 

Herbivory exclusion experiment

Cages were designed to exclude mega-herbivores like dugongs and green sea turtles from the sheltered area. Prior to mounting the cage, the seagrass and macroalgal parameters were noted for each site. The idea was to understand the effects of herbivory exclusion on the ecology of seagrasses. Readings were to be taken every month. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to protect the cage, they were stolen by unknown vandals. This resulted in the discontinuation of the experiment. A new fitting experimental technique needs to be tried for the execution of this study.

 

Awareness Program conducted for sea scout students

Awareness lecture were given to 49 school students for dugong conservation

Awareness program for 6 schools attended the program of 7, 8 and 9th standard

 

Date: 14.02.2020

Venue: Nagar Palika Sanchalit Okha Primary school
Attendees: 6th standard school students

An awareness program was conducted for Gram Panchyat Okha High School on 14.02.2020. Total 72 participants about age group 10-13 participated in the awareness program. We sensitized the participants with importance of marine biodiversity and seagrass habitats of Gulf of Kutch, role and importance of sea grass habitats and Dugongs habitats in marine ecosystem, marine mammals in marine ecosystem, threats and conservation efforts for marine mammals.

 
Awareness program and Scholarship examination
Date:
17.02.2020
Venue: Okha Nagar Palika Sanchalit Primary school
Attendees: 7th to 8th standard
 

An awareness program was conducted for Gram Panchyat Okha High School on 17.02.2020. Total 122 participants about age group 12-15 participated in the awareness program. We sensitized the participants with importance of marine biodiversity and seagrass habitats of Gulf of Kutch, role and importance of sea grass habitats and Dugongs habitats in marine ecosystem, marine mammals in marine ecosystem, threats and conservation efforts for marine mammals. Pamphlets along with small gifts were distributed among students. Dugong scholarship exam was conducted and 122 students appeared for examination.

 
CMS-COP 13 Meeting at Gandhinagar, Gujarat
 

Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home” is  the theme of a major UN Wildlife Conference dedicated to migratory species in India that was held from 15th to 22nd February, 2020 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. The CoP13 was officially inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India on 17th February, 2020.  Senior government officials, environment advocates, activists, researchers and biodiversity leaders from as many as 130 countries participated in this conference. Inaugurating this key UN Summit the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that the CMS COP13 is of particular significance to India, which is known for its rich biodiversity and is one of the seven megadiverse countries in the world. Wildlife Institute of India has showcased the conservation efforts of India with respect to several threatened migratory species such as Dugongs, Great Indian Bustard, Gangetic Dolphin, Amur Falcon, Snow Leopard, etc. in its Exhibition Hall. WII stall is one of the most visited stalls of the Conference by delegates and students.

 

Distribution of Awareness materials and felicitation of Dugong ambassadors

Dugong volunteers and Dugong ambassadors were facilitated with notebooks, tshirts and caps. Dugong volunteers were selected from the different schools after conducting awareness program.

 
 
 
Dugong Ambassadors selection through scholarship examination
Total 59 new Dugong ambassadors were selected through exam conducted in 6 different schools.
Image 33: Scholarship exam conducted at Rupen Bundar School
 
Science day celebration Science day was celebrated with Shree Dwarka Taluka School 1. Teachers were and awareness program were briefed about the Project activities. One documentary on Marine wildlife, their role in marine ecosystem were showcased.
Image 34: Science day celebration with awareness program with Shree Dwarka Taluka School
 
January 2020
 

Awareness program for graduate colleges at Fishery Research Institute

We conducted awareness program for two graduate colleges from Bhavnagar namely Shree Swaminarayan Naimisharnya of science and Sir P. P. Institute of Science in Fishery Research Institute Okha, Junagadh agricultural university (JAU) on 10.01.2020. Total 70 participants were biology graduates who visited Beyt Dwarka on study tour. We sensitized the participants with importance of marine biodiversity and seagrass habitats of Gulf of Kutch, role and importance of sea grass habitats and Dugongs habitats in marine ecosystem, marine mammals in marine ecosystem, threats and conservation efforts for marine mammals.

 

Awareness Program at Varwala Wadi Primary School

We conducted awareness program in Varwala Wadi primary school in Varwala village on 17.01.2020. Total 13 students belonging to fishermen community studying in 6 to 7th standard was given glimpse of dugong program with importance of marine biodiversity and threats to marine life such as pollution, entanglement in nets. We also distributed comic books and pamphlets among them.  

 

Awareness Program at RMSA Government High School, Vasai

We conducted awareness program in RMSA Government High School in Vasai  village on 17.01.2020. Total 72 students studying in 9 to 10th standard attended the program. The students were given general introduction about marine life, adaptation for marine life especially for dugongs and other marine mammals.

 

Awareness Program for  Shree Karmyog Secondary School Varvala

An awareness program was conducted for Gram Panchyat Okha High School on 22.01.2020. Total 139 participants participated in the awareness program. We sensitized the participants with importance of marine biodiversity and seagrass habitats of Gulf of Kutch, role and importance of sea grass habitats and Dugongs habitats in marine ecosystem, marine mammals in marine ecosystem, threats and conservation efforts for marine mammals

 

Awareness Program  for Shri Swaminarayan Highschool

Awareness Program  was conducted at Shri Swaminarayan High school, Beyt Dwarka on 21.01.2020. Total 62 students belonging to 9th-10th  standard attended the program. We showed them documentary about the marine biodiversity which included seagrass beds ecosystem and general life underwater. My friend Dugong Comic book along with Souvenirs were distributed to the students who were attentively answered the questions and also teachers were facilitated for their support.    

 

Awareness Program at Poshitra Marine Camp

We conducted awareness Program at Poshitra marine camp organized by Jamnagar forest department on 17.01.2020. Total 56 participants from Shree Sarswati Primary school belonging to 8th standard with age group of about 13 years  attended the program. We showed them documentary about the marine biodiversity which included seagrass beds ecosystem and general life underwater. 

 

Awareness Program and scholarship exam follow up for  P.V.M. Girl School

We conducted awareness program for P.V.M. Girls High school, Dwarka on 22.01.2020. Total 93 participants participated in the awareness program. We sensitized the participants with importance of marine biodiversity and seagrass habitats of Gulf of Kutch, role and importance of sea grass habitats and Dugongs habitats in marine ecosystem, marine mammals in marine ecosystem, threats and conservation efforts for marine mammals.

 

Awareness program at  Grampanchayt Okha Government High School

We conducted awareness program for Gram Panchyat Okha High School on 25.01.2020. Total 170 participants participated in the awareness program. We sensitized the participants with importance of marine biodiversity and seagrass habitats of Gulf of Kutch, role and importance of sea grass habitats and Dugongs habitats in marine ecosystem, marine mammals in marine ecosystem, threats and conservation efforts for marine mammals.

 

Awareness program for Coastguards

We conducted an orientation lecture for coastguards on 29.01.2020 in Okha. 38 officers attended this lecture. We introduced them to our ongoing project activities and importance of Dugong and seagrass in the marine ecosystem. We briefed them for recording any Dugong and other marine mammal sightings. We also distributed datasheet for recording any sightings. One of the officers mentioned to see similar dugong like animal 3-4 months back near Ajad island, but they couldn’t identify animal and misidentified as dolphin.

 

Awareness Program for Marine Police

We conducted an orientation lecture for marine police on 30.01.2020 in Okha.  28 officers attended this lecture. We introduced them to our ongoing project activities and importance of Dugong and seagrass in the marine ecosystem. We briefed them for recording any Dugong and other marine mammal sightings. We also distributed datasheet for recording any sightings. We also distributed caps to the staff.

 
November 2019- December 2019
 

Pilot Drone survey at Bhaidar island

Pliot drone transect surveys were conducted for Pilot drone survey transect for seagrass and marine animal sightings. Unfortunately, no dugong was sighted. A single green sea turtle was observed swimming in the waters nearby.

 

Green sea turtle stranded at Okha beach

One sea turtle was stranded on Okha beach on 18.12.2019. Morphometric measurements and tissue samples were collected. Several counts of barnacles were found on the carapace of the animal. Moreover, pieces of plastic were found in its mouth. The turtle was later taken away by officials of Gujarat forest department.

 

Subtidal seagrass surveys

Dive attempt to map subtidal seagrass in Bhaidar Island cove was conducted. Although, a new bed of H. decipiens was discovered at a depth of 6-8 mts, it was realized that mapping the subtidal zones by using the diving method is not possible a very extremely risky feat too. This is due to the very low visibility and high current speed of the water. The team resorted to the use of Van Veen grab for subtidal mapping of seagrasses.

Dunny point, Paga reef and Bhaidar islands sheltered subtidal areas needs to be surveyed more for mapping the spread of paddle grass.

 
AUGUST- SEPTEMBER- OCTOBER- 2019
 

At headquarters- The seagrass and sediment samples were cleaned and processed for Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and plant fiber content like lignin, cellulose etc. were estimated. The sediment samples were further analyzed for water holding capacity and grain size.

 
JUNE 2019- JULY 2019
 

Awareness Programmes in Schools

Workshop, which included seminars and documentary screening, for over 850 school children was organised at four schools in the district Devbhumi Dwarka at different occasions. Students from VII to XII standards were made aware of marine mammal diversity in Gujarat, Dugongs and their habitat and plastic pollution in the oceans.

 
March 2019­ to  May 2019
 

Seminars were conducted for 62 students from 13 schools of four districts in Gujarat, where marine mammal diversity in Gujarat, Dugongs and their habitat and plastic pollution in the oceans were covered.

 

Assessing polychlorinated-bi-phenyls contamination in the critical dugong habitat

Study is undertaken to quantify and assess a rarely studied region, the Gulf of Kutch, (near Okha), Gujarat, India, for PCB contamination in the sediment and seagrass samples. This is an important study due to the fact that this region is the habitat for the critically endangered dugongs which are facing the risk of population decline due to several reasons. In this study we are trying to ascertain if the habitat is contaminated by persistent pollutant like Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are highly toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent. These chemicals are known for their toxic effects on reproduction, immunity, hormones, physiology, metabolism and other health parameters which affect their health, in short term and survival and population in long term.  Sediment and seagrass samples were collected from 7 Islands from Gulf of Kutch region in March-April 2019 and analysed. For residues of 12 polychlorinated biphenlys (PCB) congeners.

 

Threat Mapping

 
Boat surveys were used for point count observations at a total of 68 grids 30 km into the south-western region of Gulf of Kutch. The number of vessels observed at/around inhabited areas (110) was found out to be considerably more than what was observed around uninhabited areas (38). It was observed in this season that more boats were docked at jetties/port than being operational. The surveys were conducted in the pre-monsoon season, March-May, which also coincided with the nearing of off fishing season as winds pick up, bringing monsoon. Further extensive surveys are expected to present a detailed picture of relations between seasons and boat traffic.
 
Interview Surveys 
 
Trials for interview surveys using a pre-set questionnaire were carried out with fishermen of village Balapur, Beyt Dwarka, to understand the technicalities of their fishing ways, their direct or indirect contact with marine fauna and their perception of dugongs and their current status in the gulf.
 

Community Participation and Integration

An effort to increase the participation of locals in conservation was made by collaborating with craftswomen from Wagher community, who specialise in traditional mud art, tapestry work etc. An enthusiastic response from the women marked the inception of a possible collaboration for using their artwork as outreach and awareness material.

 

Fisher Community Awareness Workshop

About 100 fishermen were introduced to the Dugong project; marine mammals, Seagrasses and their importance, threats to their existence and conservation and mitigation measures through presentations and documentaries. Notebooks were also distributed to fishermen children who responded enthusiastically, leaving mark on our conversation initiative. Interviews using a preset questionnaire were also conducted with fishermen for understanding their perception about dugongs and marine mammals.

 
May 2019
 
During the seagrass exploratory surveys, the team discovered feeding trails; which are trails made by a sea-cows as they move whilst excavating seagrasses along with the rhizomes and roots. Length, width and depth of the trails were measured on field. The first feeding grounds that were found on a Chepri reef. Feeding grounds and seagrass composition found on Bhaidar Islands’ reef confirms their prediction made via qualitative analysis of last year’s dead dugong stranding (n=2).  Waypoints were taken separately for individual trails (<3) and multiple trails (>3).  All of the foraging grounds have young stands of Halophila and Halodule sp. of seagrasses growing. A comparative habitat analysis shall inform more on the preference of meadow characteristics of dugongs in the GoK.

Dugong feeding trails in Halodule meadow at Chepri island

 

Halophila sp. fruits

Inspection of samples in lab and in meadows revealed that the plants of Halophila genus were fruiting. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants i.e. Halophila ovalis. This finding presses on the importance of conserving healthy dugong habitats in a focussed manner.

Halophila sp. fruits growing on the nodes of the rhizome
 

Mapping new seagrass associated landscapes found in the south-western islands, GoK

Exploratory surveys were made for seagrass mapping on reefs and islands of SW-GoK. The idea is to map benthic features i.e. rocks, rubbles, mud flats, seagrass meadows, channels, photophilous algae covering rocks, sand, etc. More than 200 waypoints and tracks have been fixed for a particular sea-floor feature. These waypoints and tracks were made unidirectionally from seaward to seagrass meadows for each reef. The curious spatial heterogeneity gives each meadow a unique infrastructure. We have developed a key depicting the benthic features which shall be useful as a reference key during the aerial survey’s photogrammetry of seagrass meadows to estimate a meadows extent and differentiating types of submerged vegetation from other non-vegetated seagrass-absent areas during low tide.

Photo-identification key of benthic features in Gulf of Kutch’s insular seagrass habitat. Left panel (from top left) seagrass meadow, sand, reef flat (Favia), reef flat (Porites, Montipora), Mangrove swamp, Rubble. Right panel- (Top) Channel, (Bottom) Mud mounts

 

February 2019

Awareness Seminars

Forest Department Trainees for SCUBA Diving Course  Workshop, which included a seminar and documentary screening, was conducted for 5 Forest Department officials who were training for SCUBA Diving. Seminar covered marine mammal diversity in Gujarat, Dugongs and their habitat and plastic pollution in the oceans.

 

Seminars were conducted for students where marine mammal diversity in Gujarat, Dugongs and their habitat and plastic pollution in the oceans were covered. Documentaries depicting sea life in the shallows and depths of tropical as well as temperate waters were also screened.

 

SCUBA Diving and Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Training

Training programme, which included seminars, documentary screening, intertidal walk, beach clean-up and SCUBA diving training, was conducted for 10 frontline forest officials. The participants were briefed about the project, status of Dugongs and other marine mammals in the Gulf of Kutch and were also familiarised with field methodology generally used for monitoring marine biodiversity in intertidal as well as sub tidal areas. The participants were then trained as Open Water SCUBA Divers by Dive India, Dwarka to enhance their capacity to effectively manage marine natural resources.

 
January 2019
 

Nature Awareness Camp

Workshop, which included seminars, documentary screening and intertidal walks, for over 200 school and college students was organised at Forest Department Basecamp, Poshitra, as a part of their Summer Nature Camp Programme. Seminars covered marine mammal diversity in Gujarat, Dugongs and their habitat and plastic pollution in the oceans. Students were introduced to the intertidal realm and its biodiversity through walks along the nearby rocky shores.

 
December 2018
 

First record of Halophila decipiens meadows in the GoK

H. decipiens is a seagrass of the family Hydrocharitaceae, the meadows of which have been confirmed growing in GoK for the first time. They were found growing in either monospecific meadows or in mixed- meadows growing along with H. ovalis. Samples were collected using random quadrat method. Specimens were identified using Kuo and den Hartog (2001).  Reefs where H. decipiens were found growing are Balapur area of Beyt-Dwarka island and Bhaidar Islands subtidal meadow 4-15 ft deep and in the intertidal zones of Tam & Nakya reef.

 

Awareness Workshop

Workshop, which included seminars and intertidal walk, was conducted for about 50 students pursuing B. Sc. Zoology. Seminar covered marine mammal diversity in Gujarat, Dugongs and their habitat and plastic pollution in the oceans. Students were introduced to the intertidal realm and its biodiversity through walks along Dwarka rocky shore, where seagrasses were collected for making herbariums.

 

Community Interaction and Awareness Programme

An interactive session was conducted at the Okha Jetty, where around 350 commuters were informed about Dugongs, their habitat and anthropogenic impacts on the concerned animal. They were also made aware of the effects of single use plastic on marine fauna and its health through public talks.

 

November 2018

Dead dugong  drifting near Maan and Marudi Island

A drifting dead dugong was found near Maan and Marudi Island in November, 2018. The informant, a fisher/Dugong volunteer, informed. Boats were set out in a strategic manner to access the stranding prone areas for the animal. Unfortunately, the animal was not found.

 
Image1: Drifting carcass of a dugong. Gender- unknown due to post mortal evisceration in the abdomen