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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ocean Resources: Conservation and Management

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Seas and oceans provide various types of resources to human beings and habitats to numerous species of plants and animals. They play very important roles in the economy of a nation and its people. Still, the marine and coastal ecosystems are under severe stress due to human activities. Hence the conservation of these resources is very important, today.Our marine and coastal ecosystems are under heavy stress due to human activities. 

 Major stresses on marine ecosystems are listed below-
1. Pollution of marine water due to disposal of municipal, industrial, chemical and toxic wastes in the sea water.
2. Dumping of various biodegradable and non- biodegradable wastes including plastics and torn fishing nets etc. into sea water.
3. Over exploitation of living marine resources.
4. Heavy sedimentation of sea water.
5. Global climatic and atmospheric changes induced by human activities leading to atmospheric pollution.
6. Introduction of exotic species for example introduction of Jelly fish in the black sea.
7. Oil spills on water surface from ships and natural sources.

Stresses on coastal ecosystems are listed below-
1. Increasing pressure on terrestrial and marine natural resources cause coastal degradation.
2. Dumping of wastes in coastal areas intoxicate the coastal and estuarine waters.
3. Population growth, increasing urbanisation, industrialization and tourism in coastal areas damage coastal ecosystems.
4. Pollution of coastal water by industrial wastes is damaging coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Deaths of sea birds due to intoxication of sea-water by pesticides (DDT in particular) and outbreak of Mina Mata disease in Japan from mercury contaminated seafood are two examples of serious pollutions of coastal ecosystems.
5. Exploitation of living resources from coastal areas is causing excessive pressures on coastal ecosystems.
6. Contamination of sea water with sewage is causing nutrient enrichment of coastal ecosystems. It is further leading to a serious condition of eutrophication. The sewage discharge into sea water has increased dramatically in the past three decades. Several enclosed or semi-enclosed seas like the Black Sea are experiencing serious problem of eutrophication.
7. The contamination of coastal water by sewage borne pathogens is causing serious public health problems.
8. Port dredging, land filling, coastal solid waste dumps, coastal constructions, beech and reef- mining, damage from tourism and recreation are causing serious impacts on these ecosystems.
9. Destruction of mangrove vegetation has put severe stresses on these ecosystems.

Conservation and Management of Marine and Coastal Ecosystems 
According to a report of the UNEP( United Nations Environmental Programme), the degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems has intensified since last 30 years. The progress in the protection of these ecosystems has so far remained very slow. Fortunately, there is an emerging concern in some parts of the globe that the loss of living marine resources is as dangerous to the health of marine and coastal ecosystems as marine pollution. Some of the major threats to these ecosystems that have been identified are- pollutions, over- exploitation of marine living resources and loss of coastal habitats.

Major strategies of conservation and management of marine and coastal ecosystems are described below -
 India has a coastline of over 7,500 km .It has about 2 million sq km area within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It has been authorised to explore about 150,000 sq km of marine area in the Indian Ocean by Seabed Authority which offers immense scope for exploration and study of ocean resources.

The Government of India created the Department of Ocean Development (DOD) in July 1981. An Ocean Policy Statement was brought out in 1982 by this department. Some of the features of this policy are- Exploratory survey; Assessment and sustainable utilization of ocean resources; Technical advances geared to the utilisation and preservation of the marine and coastal ecosystems; Integrated Coastal and Marine area Development; and Coastal Community Development.

The Government of India has created following systems for the conservation and management of marine and coastal ecosystems-
(i) Coastal Area Monitoring and Prediction System (OMAPS)-1990.
(ii) Two Coastal Research Vessels (under National Institute of Ocean Technology) namely - Sagar Purvi and Sagar Paschimi. These vessels are meant for the monitoring of marine and coastal pollutions for Integrated Coastal and Marine area Management.

The Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management Programme (ICMAM) is a project under implementation since 1997. This project has two major components- (a) Capacity building, and (b) Development of infra structure for research and development.The capacity building component of ICMAM incorporates-
(a)Development of information system for critical habitats of India such as Gulf of Khambat, Karwar Island, Gulf of Kutch, Cochin Islands, Sunder bans, Malwan, Kadmat Island, Gulf of Mannar,Pichavaran, Caring and Gahirmatha.
(b) Development of guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment.
(c) Development of Model Integrated Coastal and Marine Management Plans for Chennai, Goa, and Gulf of Kutch.

On global level, India ratified the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in June 1995.The Department of Ocean Development is a nodal agency for the implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS in India. Soon after the enforcement of UNCLOS, some institutions like the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) and Commission on the Limit of Continental shelf (CLCS) were formed.

Key Words : conservation, stress, marine resources, coastal resources,dumping, sedimentation, exotic species, enclosed and semi enclosed seas, black sea, DOD, UNCLOS, CLCS