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

June 2018
Community Interaction Programme - Balapur Village 2nd June, 2018

Post intensive boat surveys, the coxswains were invited to reflect upon the survey findings and the motive. Many felt encouraged to cooperate more for such conservation activities in the future.

May 2018
2-10th May- Okha

Seagrass survey post processing and preservation, data entering and interpretation.

10th -15th- Balapur village

Introduction to the project, Seagrass and marine mammal introductory sessions. Average number of attendees – 12 Many reports of Dugong and porpoise sightings. Types of illegal fishing techniques practiced in the gulf was established.

16th-17th May - Western Islands og Gok-Intensive Boat Surveys

New waypoints of previous dugong sightings recorded. Baleen whale carcass found. Community now invests more time in understanding the conservation issues.

Intensive boat surveys- 10 boats tried sailing in parallel covering a swathe of 10kms near potential Dugong hotspots( left) and a whale carcass was spotted during the surveys and tissues were taken for the same.

April 2018

First week of April -Visited Balapur villages’ fishing community, established on the island of Beyt Dwarka for further investigation about the entangled mother-calf pair. It later transpired that the calf had died due to suffocation but the fishermen were able to cut free the mother. An introductory Seagrass and Dugong workshop with the forest department was conducted on the 12th April. 23 Rfo’s from Khijadiya, Bhatiya and Khambaliya divisions and MNP scientists, along with the ACF Harsh Thakar had come to attend the workshop. The life history and ecosystem services of dugongs and seagrasses was discussed

Second to Fourth Week of April

Pagar reef was explored for newmeadows of seagrasses. The seagrass patch in the eastern side was mapped along the algal spread. Voucher samples were taken for morphology study. Previously unreported from the gulf, H. decepiens’, monospecific meadows, is suspected to be occupying the muddy south western part of the reef.  Waypoints, tracks and polygons of non-seagrass areas were also made alongwith the seagrass perimeter mapping.

The lower part of the island was further studied by plotting 50mx50m grids, from the western to the north eastern part of the reef. Halodule wrightii and Halodule decepiens locations were found on the reef. Tacks were made for the seagrass absent areas.

Pilot boat survey in the channel between Pagar reef and Bhaidar island was done. Pilot boat survey along the coastline was done in the Beyt-Dwarka region too. The extent of a newly found seagrass patch in the Beyt-Dwarka island was estimated and waypoints were taken.

Beyt island: seagrass survey and mapping, sediment sample collection (left). Beyt island seagrass meadow(right).
Pagar reef seagrass surveys via grid method. (left) Taking readings of seagrass morphology and associated physical parameters. (right) plotting grids via 50x50 ropes
March 2018
Ajad Island, Seagrass Surveys (16-03-2018 to 18-03-2018)

The offshore island of Ajad was scoped for the presence of seagrasses in the intertidal zone general habitat analysis. Halophila beccarii meadow was discovered and GPS waypoints for the extent of the meadow was taken. Perimeter of the near shore patches was made via polygons. Voucher samples of the seagrasses were later analysed for morphometrics and epiphytes. Seagrass- absent areas were also mapped. Community interaction programmes were practised simultaneously during the three days stay in the island

Paper Reef Seagrass Mapping:

Polygons and random quadrats were made for the Halophila.ovalis seagrass meadow.Algal samples, growing amongst the meadows, were collected and identified.

Ajad Island: Seagrass Surveys (Upper Panel) and Islanders (Bottom)
Dugong Ambassadors Felicitation Programme (February 10, 2018)

Dugong ambassadors, along with the members of their family had come from different fishing communities from villages in the gulf like Bharana, Vasai, Arambadha, Mithapur, Dwarka, Beyt and Okha to the Indian coastguard station. The kids participated in a drawing competition, the theme of which was “Children of the sea”.

A brief talk on the current overfishing issues, how bycatch is reducing the fish stocks, destructive fishing techniques were generally discussed. The fishermen could relate tom the problem and even agreed that the reducing catch size has been pushing them to sail farther from the coast, towards the southern islands. When the issue of gill net entanglement was discussed, some fishermen from Khambaliya confided that they saw a dugong carcass, which had died due to net entanglement near kalubhar island, Jamnagar district. The carcass was never retrieved, and the forest department haven’t got a slightest clue, which could be the reason as to why the news did not make it to the general public.

Prior to the distribution of certificates, the kids were asked to leave Blue-Green handprints on fabric, with a personal message to the sea. Apart from the dugong ambassadors, the coastguards and their children participated in this activity too.

The felicitation programme further proceeded and the idea behind the scholarship programme and the dugong project was explained, which was followed by station CO H.H More giving away the certificates. The coastguards resolved to give the children a chance at a better future by discussing with the communities the possibility of a one-day exposure tour to their ships, wherein they’ll be sailing to understand the basics of the Indian coastguard duties. It is hoped that through this programme a positively interactive relationship will be formed between the fishing communities and the coastguards, opening doors of opportunities for the children.

Marine Mammal Awareness Programme (13 January 2018)

A Marine Mammal Awareness Programme was organized for grades 6-11 in the Kendriya Vidyalaya school, Okha.

The school children from age class- 12-16 had attended, making a total strength of 118. They were given blank sheets and paper and when asked to draw on the topic “WHAT I THINK OF THE OCEAN”. 6th to 8th graders gave their best in expressing their thoughts and concerns regarding the oceans’ and its beings state and issues by simply drawing. A visual test was also conducted for students of grades 9th and 11th, wherein a series of 22 simple and logical questions regarding marine life were displayed,

  1. A picture of marine debris was displayed, and the kids were asked to take a good look and write up two liners of what they see.

  2. Another picture showing a turtle, victim of fishing net-entanglement was displayed, asking the same question.

  3. A picture of an Octopus was displayed with the question asking if they thought it was a fish.

  4. A picture of a humpback whale nursing its calf was shown with the question asking what they think the mother whales feed their calves.

Through the visual test, the students level of understanding regarding marine ecology conservation could be easily understood.  This method was productive when it was followed by a presentation, introducing marine mammals and their life histories, also talking about the entanglement and debris issues, which corrected their misconceptions (answers to the visual test images were discussed). This was followed by a quick Q/A session and near the conclusion of the programme kids took a pledge to not use Single use plastic (SUP) and try their best to keep the oceans healthy.

Stakeholder Consultation Workshop for Dugong and Seagrass Awareness and Conservation Issues, Gulf of Kutch (February 8, 2018)

A workshop was conducted at the Indian Coast Guard station at Okha, Gujarat. Apart from the C.O, Sh. H.H More, Assistant Commanding Officers, Chief Dpty. Cmdt., Gautam Adhikari, several sailors and junior sailors etc. attended the workshop along with vessel traffic monitoring officer from the Okha port office, Dy. Collector, Marine Patrolling Commandos from the Okha marine police, etc. also attended the workshop.

After a brief introduction to the CAMPA Dugong and Seagrass recovery project, the session started with introduction to marine mammals and their importance and role in the marine ecosystem. Further, dugong and seagrasses’ life history, behavior, and threats were addressed. Successful conservation stories of the whale shark conservation project of the WTI and Olive ridley turtles’ conservation efforts were also discussed. The progress of the project was briefly talked about.

The need for reporting marine mammal sightings through aerial/boat surveys were discussed, protocol and datasheet for which was presented to the commanders, sailors and marine police patrolling commandos. A coded poster presenting the marine mammals of India was then handed out and discussed along with the attached marine mammal handbook.