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(A report based on observation my coastal environmental bike

expedition along the tamil nadu coastal villages))




I. Introduction
II. Tamil Nadu and the enroute of journey
III. Background and Scope
• Creation of environmental awareness
• Collection of information related to environmental problems and marine
IV. Tamil Nadu and the enroute of journey
V. Area specific socio environmental problems:
1. Pulicat
2. Cuddalore SIPCOT
3. Point Calimere
4. Aquaculture
5. Bomb fishing
6. Trawlers
7. Sand mining
8. Sterlite
9. Sethusumdrum Canal Project
10. Atomic power station
VI. Fishermen’s basic problems
• Water
• Sanitation
• Economy
VII. Interviewing Fishers:
• Stock depletion in commercially exploited species for the last 10
• Ban on 52 species including Sharks and Rays
• 45 days ban on fishing
VIII. Endangered species, and their current status of Tamil Nadu
• Sea cucumbers
• Sea horses
• Turtles
• Dolphins
• Sea Cows
IX. Suggestion
Our oceans and its untamed resources are going to the edge of
their existence. Most of the marine living resources are exploited
indiscriminately. This continuous over exploitation in all parts of the world is
greatly reducing the variety and richness of the life in the sea. For too long
the seas of the world have been considered as an inexhaustible source of
food, as having an infinite capacity to absorb and purify our wastes and as a
source of all the raw materials needed to maintain an industrial society. It is
now apparent that none of these assumptions is true and the human
population at the current level of technological development has the ability to
inflict massive destruction of the seas, just as we have done on the land. At
present, the seas remain in good condition relative to the land (especially 2km
from the shore), and they should not be permitted to get degraded for our very
existence in the future.

Coastal ecosystem is the interface between the land and sea. It

covers 8% of the earth. It is productive and diverse, and it includes wetlands,
bays and continental shelves. Now, the coastal zone is under threat due to
human inhabitation (about 6/10 living within the 60km of the shore). Within
the next 20 – 30 years the population of the coastal zone will be doubled and
this will pose a serious threat to the coastal resources. It is therefore of
utmost importance to maintain the biodiversity and ecological balance. India
is rich in estuaries, beaches, mangroves, coral reefs, seagrasses beds and
algal communities and island ecosystems. They protect and support the
wealth of the oceans. Many economically important marine fishes and
invertebrates are depending upon these regions for habitat and food.
Conservation of the biodiversity and its importance are felt but not full action –
oriented in the field. The scientists are interested in conservation but not
involved in it. The organizations involved in the conservation of coastal
marine ecosystems are mainly interested in getting funds and submitting the
manipulated reports for asking grants from funding agencies. The
Governments of all nations and international organizations are now trying to
protect and conserve marine living resources by creating awareness,
establishing marine parks and rearing centers.

Marine parks of some developing countries are only in the form of

“PAPER PARKS”. They are not only the places of ecological importance but
also of over exploitation for indiscriminate unlawful fishing. Unfortunately the
rate of conservation is lagging behind destruction. This is due to the
conservation efforts without considering the local communities. The
upliftment of fisherfolks and the conservation of marine animals are tightly
interrelated with each other. Without the heartfelt involvement of fishermen
community, we can never protect the vanishing coastal marine ecosystems.
The scientists and government officials at higher levels make their decisions
and laws for conserving the environment, without clear understanding of real
scenario of man and ecosystems. In my field experience, every coastal
village of our state has its own socio economic and environmental problems.
Their opinions and basic needs are largely ignored in conservation activities.
Most of the surveys conducted by the research institutions are only in the
main landing centers and ignoring the actual status of the tiny remote villages.
Most of the surveyors don’t have the experience in assessing the endangered
species. No one has the right to stop the fishermen from exploitation of
endangered species or for other developmental activities without suggesting
alternative livelihood options. In the absence of the livelihood security, it is
not wise to introduce the 45 days of fishing ban or ban on the 52 species of
endangered fishes. The socio economic problems of coastal people have to
be studied extensively in order to save the sea. In my trip, I tried to interact
with the people of Tamil Nadu coast.

The effective environmental awareness and development

programmes can be successful only through proper communication between
the Government, NGOs and the research centers. The findings and solutions
that are proposed by the research centers for environmental problems don’t
come to the media or applied practically. Thousands of Ph.D., theses with
useful information and solutions are sleeping in the libraries of all Universities.
Here, I am briefly discussing of my personal observations without hiding or
exaggerating the issues.
It is not an altogether a happy story to look at the pollution status,
disappearance of marine animals and problems of fisherfolks of Tamil Nadu
coast. It is not. It features prominently the wanton destruction of some of the
most valuable fisheries. This reveals repeated failure of the Government to
take effective steps against the depletion of resources.

This report does not pretend to be a deep research on the

fishermen problems or endangered species. It intends to analyze the
ecological and social issues essential for the government action. The critical
point to tackle in this report is livelihood security of local community that leads
to ecological security.
Tamil Nadu is the southern most part of the Indian peninsula with
the Bay of Bengal to its East, the Arabian Sea to its West and the Indian
Ocean in the South. It has a long coast of nearly 1100 km. Tamil Nadu has
an area of 1, 29,901 km2 that is about 4% of the total area of India and has an
8% of total population of India. This state bordered in the North by the state of
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, while to its West lies the state of Kerala, the
latter naturally separated by the Western Ghats that form a fascinating
landscape in this southern peninsula. An ancient plateau with

A distinct structural and geographical background characterizes

Tamil Nadu. It is characterized by a broad stretch of plains lying parallel to
the coast. The plains are further classified in to Coromandel, Alluvial and
Southerly plains.

The coastline in the east is remarkably straight with well - formed

beaches; the most famous of this is being Marina (second best in the world).
The estuaries are mostly occupied by beautiful mangrove forest. Pitchavaram
and Muthupet are such wonderful places. The Palk Strait separates Tamil
Nadu from Sri Lanka, characterized by shallow water with sea grass beds.
There is a holy island for Hindus and the birthplace of Dr.A.P.J.Abdul kalam,
President of India called Rameswaram. It is in the southern part of Tamil
Nadu and connected with the mainland by Pamban Bridge. A group of 10
coral reef islands are located. The Indian Government declared it as
“Biosphere Reserve”, the first in the South East Asia.

My journey started from Pulicat on 20th May 2002 and finished at

Kanyakumari on 6th June 2002. From that place, I met a lot of people
including fishermen with catamaran, mechanized boats, canoes of all along
coast. I travelled through tiny remote villages and Rameswaram Island (up to
Dhanushkodi) which are far from the National Highway. This trip was pain-
staking and was not as easy as I thought. The entry to small villages was
really a thrilling experience to me. I tried to visit a maximum number of
villages everyday. The number of villages and traveling time in a day
depended on the condition of the bike, responses from villages, distance
between the two stations and the road conditions. I covered more than 300
villages in a distance of 1200 km.

Districts covered

1. Thiruvalluvar District 9. Pudhukkottai District

2. Kanchipuram District 10. Ramanathapuram District

3. Vizhuppuram District 11. Tuticorin District

4. Pondicherry 12. Thirunelveli District

5. Cuddalore District 13. Kanyakumari District

6. Nagai District

7. Thiruvarur District

8. Thanjavur District
• Awareness Creation on the importance of Mangroves and
Coral reefs in Tamil Nadu coastal villages.

• To study the stock depletion in the commercially exploited

fishes in Tamil Nadu for the last 10 years.

• To understand the Socioeconomic and Environmental

problems of fishermen community in Tamil Nadu.

• To study the opinion of fisherfolks about ban on 52 species

(including sharks and rays),45 days ban on fishing.

• To study the opinion of the fisherfolks about the endangered


• To find a solution for the above problems in order to protect

our coastal environment.
We are provided with lot of gifts from Mother Nature for our need
but not for greed. Unfortunately, intense human impact on the environment
depletes the possessions, resulting in the boomerang effect on human
globally. The people of Tamil Nadu are also affected indirectly. Hence, there
is a need to let the people to know what will actually happen if the
environment is extremely disturbed. This has been the vital subject in the
United Nations conferences. In this contest, I autonomously tried it among
our people. For the survey, the current issues like ban on 52 species, ban on
fishing for 45 days, Coastal Environmental pollution were taken up. More than
eight hundreds people were participated in the survey. Whenever I entered in
to the villages, a cluster of persons surrounded me and I preferred the place,
where the people are usually aggregating like in front of the temples, below
trees, landing centers, houses of village heads and net repairing places. This
trip was planned to create awareness among the people about the ecological
and economical importance of Coral Reefs and Mangroves. It was done
successfully by distributing pamphlets, chatting with people, by taking
seminars (15 minutes) among the staffs of Non Governmental Organizations.
I distributed totally 2500 pamphlets. Of those, 1000 were regarding the Coral
reefs (for Gulf of Mannar region) and the remaining were about the
mangroves (for Pitchavaram and Muthupet areas) and their importance.

Collection of Data

I collected data on the fishermen’s problem, pollution, depletion of

the commercially exploited species and endangered species (Dugongs,
Dolphins, Turtles, Sea horses, Sea cucumbers) and opinion with regard to the
banning of 52 species and 45 days of ban on fishing.
During 1590 and 1610 A.D the Dutch landed and settled down at
Pulicat to establish joint trade with local Muslims, with the East Indies
(Batavia). The Dutch stayed on at Pulicat till about 1690 AD and their ships
were able to enter Pulicat, 3.8m depths. From that period the siltation started
and going on even now at a rate of 1m/Century. By about 1800 A.D the lake
depth was reduced to 2 m, so that the British could not bring their ship to
Pulicat and they abandoned Pulicat as a natural Port. Recent paleobotanical
studies indicate that the 500 – 200 years ago luxurious mangroves were
thrived in Pulicat. .

The Indian Government declared the Pulicat Lake as a “Ramsar

Site”. In Tamil it is called as “Pazhaverkadu” which means “forest of rooted
fruit” which specifies the mangroves. It includes 26 fisherman villages that
depend the Pulicat lake for livelihood. The total area of the lake is 600 km2
with average depth of 1 – 3 m which favors larval development of fishes and
shrimps. These organisms from the sea are migrated to the lake for laying
eggs that attract the migratory birds from other countries. Only Dry
wastelands are lining the roadside to Pulicat Lake.

Some of the villages can be reached only by boat. Those villages

are located on long sandy stretches with 25km long and .1 to 1 km width. It
separates the sea and backwater. Those fishermen of the sand bar are the
evicted people from the Sri Harikotta rocket launching station area. They lead
a tough life and are struggling everyday for fishing. I could see their poor
conditions with net and boat without proper catch of fish.
Thermal Pollution

Here, the thermal pollution affects both human and the

environment. The power station in North Madras uses coal for electricity
production. Warming of aquatic ecosystem occurs to the point where
desirable organisms are adversely affected. Large quantities of heat added to
the aquatic systems, cause ecological disruptions of the food chain of the
entire system.

Plants and animals thrive best in certain temperature ranges.

Hence, changes in the temperature of water will affect the types and numbers
of organisms in the aquatic ecosystem. The use of river and lake waters in
some countries for industrial cooling purposes can raise the Temperature of
the water to produce major changes in the ecosystems. Every engine that
burns fuel uses the heat to perform work. This must discharge waste heat
leading to serious environmental problems. At present, most of the electricity
is produced by burning fossil fuel and nuclear materials. The amount of heat
that must be removed from an electricity generating facility is quite large. One
million kilowatt plant running at 40% efficiency would heat 10 million litres of
water to 350C every hour. It is not surprising that discharge of such large
quantities of heat to aquatic systems, cause ecological distruptions.


• Many species that face chronic effects may lead to death. Due to
the higher temperatures the life span should be shortened. For
example, Daphnia (a copepod) lives for 108 days at 46 F but 29
days at 82 0F.

• Higher temperature also leads to faster growth rates, shorter life

spans and lower populations and biomass. Increasing temperature
can also increases the toxicity of substances. For example: Carp
can tolerate 120ppm Carbon dioxide in the water at 10C, but
60ppm itself is lethal at 36 C.
• Temperature changes may increase the vulnerability of a species to
predation and parasitism.

• Temperature may increase the effects of toxic pollutants present in

the water. In addition, the chemical reaction increases 2 to 5 times
for every increase of 100C rise in temperature which affects
photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation by blue green algae, and enzyme
activity. Higher temperatures also affect the physical and chemical
properties of water such as density, viscosity, vapour pressure and
dissolved oxygen.

• Maximum development rates in Penaeus monodon (Black Tiger

Shrimp) is between 25°C and 31.5°C. It is proved experimentally
that 18-hour exposure at 37°C is lethal.

• Algae, the habitat for larvae are easily killed by the acute thermal

• The clayey sediments of the lake retain heat much larger than the
sand. So, the lake water maintains high temperatures for a long
time than the sea. This kills all the larvae of fishes and shrimps.

• The anadromous migratory fishes are diverted from the lake for
breeding that reduces their fisheries.

• The sudden release of effluents in to the water kills the aquatic

organisms within a short period. For example, in August 5 of 2001,
thousands of fishes died and floated in the Pulicat water. To
oppose the thermal pollution, the people immediately boycotted the
school, bank, light house of the Pulicat region. After a compromise
with the Collector of Thiruvalluvar District, the strike was withdrawn.
Like this, the Pulicat people have made several struggles.
Mouth Closure

The installation of stones for the extension of Chennai port is

creating negative effects on the northern side of Chennai. For example, the
sea water now entering into the Royapuram, Ennore areas is causing erosion
of road, houses.Huts of fishermen which are being destroyed by the waves
everyday. The Lake mouth is now becoming shallower than before and
sometimes it is completely closed. This greatly affects the fishery of Pulicat
Lake by blocking the movement of aquatic organisms between the lake and
sea. The people of Pulicat pointed out that the siltation in the lake mouth is
now increasing. They also blamed the port construction diverts the currents
to settle its sand particles in the lake mouth.

In 2000 the mouth was completely closed for about 8 months.

People asked the Government to open the lake mouth, which directly
influence their economy. The Government sent a team for estimating the
expenditure to widen the lake mouth. It was calculated at about 30 lakhs for
widening. But, the Government Officials refused to do the same and said that
there was no fund. But, now the Government is constructing a landing centre
inside the lake, estimated at Rs.1 Crore. The people feel that they cannot go
for fishing in the lake as there will be a permanent situation in the mouth.
Hence, it would have been better, as suggested by the people to use Rs. 30
lakhs out of Rs. 1 Crore for widening and the remaining for constructing
landing centre
8.12.94 The survey regarding north chennai thermal power
station and port was undertaken.

26.6.95 Hunger strike by the villagers to cancel both the plans

that would cause a great damage to the Pulicat area.

28.3.96 Discussion with the chief engineer and officers of thermal


8.7.97 In this regard a group discussion was held in the office of

the Collector of Thiruvalluvar District.

21.10.97 The above was held again.

16.2.98 People from all the 26 villages boycotted the Parliament


7.5.98 A group discussion was held in the Collectorate with the

Officers of Fishery Department, Electricity Board and Port Trust at Tamil Nadu
Housing Board Office.

20.5.98 Concerning this problem, a Human Chain demonstration

was held at Valluvar Kottam, Chennai.

12.7.99 All the villagers demonstrated a ‘road roko’ on the way to

Thermal Power Station.

17.7.99, 30.10.99 & 30.5.2000 A group discussion was again held

in front of the Minister and Collector with Officers of Fishery Department,
Electricity Board and Port Trust at Tamil Nadu Housing Board Office to solve
the problem of Pulicat.

Now, the people of Pulicat are thinking that the above are not to
solve their problem but only a formality. Their struggle is still continuing ….
Estuarine systems are highly complex, dynamic and subject to
many internal and external relationships that are subject to change over time
(Imperial and Hennessey, 1996). The pollutants that enter into inshore
waters and estuaries create serious problems causing extensive damage to
the life and activities of the living aquatic organisms, cause eventual mass
mortality (Ananthan, 1994). There were outbreaks of methyl mercury
poisoning known as Mina Mata disease in Japan during 1950’s and in Iraq in
1970’s caused by eating contaminated fish.

In Cuddalore area, several industries have come up with assistance

from SIPCOT (Small Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu) Vanavil
dyes and chemicals Limited, SPIC Pharma, J.K Pharma chemical Limited,
Pentasia Chemicals Limited, etc., are located on the banks of Uppanar
estuary. SIPCOT is manufacturing fluoride, dyes, drugs, antibiotics, pulps,
pesticides and other chemicals. Most of these industries are wet process
industries and they consume large quantity of water. There are six plants
discharging effluents throughout the year to the backwater of Paravanar,
which is connected to the sea (Srinivasan, 1992). Out of 44 industries, 16
chemical industries drain the effluents with mercury in to the estuaries.
Studies on fluoride contents from this industrial area was made by
Karunagaran(1990), while studies on hydrobiology of Uppanar backwater by
Murugan, (1989) and hydrobiological investigation on the intertidal diatoms in
Uppanar estuary were made by Mathavan Pillai, (1994). Bioaccumulation of
heavy metals like Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Copper in the scad fishes from
Cuddalore water was made by Srinivasan,(1992).

Mercury content in SIPCOT

(Kudikadu)∗ ∗

Sediment - .17 – 6.71 µ g g-1

Phytoplankton - .12 – 6.71 µg g-1
Zooplankton µg g-1
- .49 – 8.87µ

(Source: Rajaraman (2001)

Mercury (Hg)

Of the several heavy metals released from the industries, mercury

is one of the most dangerous heavy metals, which causes severe effect on
the biological organisms. For eg: Minamita disease, Japan.

Brain Damage: Inorganic Hg does not readily penetrate the blood-

brain barriers (Grant, 1971). When inhaled, it initially gets deposited in the
lungs, later it is transported by the blood to other parts of the body, including
brain. The effects of Hg on the brain is permanent, as cells of the central
nervous system, once damaged, do not recover.

If a person swallows a fish containing methyl Hg, about 90 – 95% is

absorbed by the intestines (Grant 1971). It is transported throughout the body
and much of this gets concentrated in the kidney and liver. It causes serious
damage to the liver, pancreas, kidneys and the brain. In brain, it destroys the
cells, particularly in the cerebellum (leading to disturbances of equilibrium)
and the frontal cortex (personality disturbances). Methyl Hg apparently
passes readily through the placental barrier in to the fetus, where
concentration of the Hg builds up to levels several times higher than those in
the mother (Auronson, 1971): reaching high levels particularly in the foetal
brain (Montague and Montegue, 1971).

Methyl Hg (as well as phenyl Hg) is known to interfere with the

process of cell division, causing daughter cells to receive an unequal number
of chromosomes. This phenomenon, know as disjunction, has been
demonstrated in plant cells, fruit flies and tissue culture from mice and
humans. (Grant, 1971) Montague and Montague: Mitra1986).

• Dredging of contaminated sediments.

• Increasing the pH of the sediments in order to favour demethylation

and to increase volatilization.

• Introducing oxygen consuming materials so as to create anaerobic

conditions in the sediments and thus reducing Hg methylation.

• Covering the sediments with fresh finally divided, highly adsorptive

materials such as clay.

• Covering the sediments with any inorganic inert material.


When Fluoride compounds are more than the optimum level, the
diseases in relation to the bones and teeth appear. The symptoms of
fluorosis are common in those villages. The fluoride compounds in the
effluents are mixed with the nearby water source.

Resistance of Pathogens

This is one of the vital effects. Some industries of SIPCOT area

are producing antibiotics and release the effluents in to the natural
environment without proper treatment. So, the disease-producing
microorganisms in that area independently develop the resistance against the
antibiotics. When the people take the antibiotics for diseases, they do not get


The endemic aquatic species are continuously exposed to the toxic


The biomagnification process increases the concentration of the

toxicants in the human body. The sardines and mackerels are the seasonally
available fishes, which contribute a major part in the Cuddalore fishery. Now,
the above two species, particularly Oil sardines are greatly reduced than
before. The reason may be the industrial chemical wastes might affect those
fishes. Hence, the shoal is diverting to other directions to avoid the polluted
coastal waters.

Air Pollution

It is severe in the SIPCOT area and whenever we cross the

SIPCOT area by bus we can feel the difficulty in respiration. The accidental
release of harmful gases is also common in the industries. Sometimes it is
affecting the surrounding villages, which results in unconsciousness and
vomiting in the whole village.
The Point Calimere wild life and bird sanctuary is situated on a low
promontory on the Coromandel Coast in Nagappattinam District. The
sanctuary forms one of the seaward apexes of the cauvery river delta.

In 1967, the point calimere with a forest area of 24.17 km2 was
declared as the point calimere wild life and bird sanctuary. In 1988, a
proposal was sent to the Tamil Nadu Government to extend the area of the
Sanctuary to include the Great Vedaranyam Swamp and the Talaignayar
Reserve Forest. The Sanctuary is divided into three divisions. They are

1. The Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest at Point Calimere (24.2 km2).

2. The Great Vedaranyam Swamp (349 km2).

3. The mangrove forest of Talaignayar Reserve Forest (12.4 km2).

The forest is a tropical dry evergreen forest, which harbours many

species of medicinal plants that find use in the Indian systems of medicine.
18 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, and 25 species of reptiles have
been recorded in the sanctuary.


Chemplast is an industry in the Northern side of the sanctuary. It

separates Bromine from the highly concentrated seawater. To increase
salinity, they are pumping the seawater in to the shallow ponds serially and
keeps it for a period of time. This reduces the water content by evaporation,
thus increasing the salinity to about more that 100 ppt. After the separation of
chemicals, the wastewater let in to forest through canal.

• The continuous holding of seas water in the ponds increases the

salinity of the ground water. Now, ground water of point calimere is
inappropriate to drink. The people are suffering from water scarcity.

• High salinity depletes the oxygen level in the storage ponds. Hence,
the survival of aquatic organisms is critical.

• 15 – 20 years back the people had sowed in the paddy fields of

point calimere . The situation is now turned in to up side down.
The paddy fields are converted in to waste lands by the hyper
salination of the soil.

• The habitat destruction decreases the diversity of migratory birds

from several parts of the world. The migratory birds from thousands
of kilometers cannot build the energy to return to their native place.

• The industrial waste with high concentration of Fe++ is having a pale

red colour. Several medicinal plants are vanishing or under threat
caused by the Chemplast waste effluents.

• People have reported that the air pollution of Chemplast generates

the Asthma and eye flaws.

• Bunds in the Pudhu river, Sitthankoil river and Manavaikkal river

interrupt the Anadromous migration of fishes, followed by fishing.
The shrimp aquaculture industry expanded significantly throughout
Asia and Latin America during the 1980s and this expansion was generated
largely by abundant wild seed, static supplies of shrimp from capture fisheries,
and high profits from cultured shrimp (Fast and Menasvata 2000). In 1999,
farmers produced an estimated 814,250 metric tones of shrimp (Rosenberry
1999), and this represents about 25% of the total shrimp production
worldwide. In early phases of its development, shrimp farming and
aquaculture in general were thought to be completely “clean” industries
(Weston 1991). Slowly, this perception is changing as overdevelopment of
shrimp farming industries in localized areas around the world begins to create
noticeable changes in the natural environment.

Shrimp aquaculture has been criticized by organizations and

individuals that charge the industry as being environmentally irresponsible.
Publications such as Murky Waters by Goldburg and Triplett (1997) and the
recent article in Nature by Naylor et al. (2000) identify a number of
environmental problems associated with shrimp culture, including habitat
destruction, water pollution, non-native introductions, collection of wild shrimp,
and excessive use of marine protein in shrimp feeds. Although there are
examples that illustrate the negative environmental impacts of shrimp farming
(Chua et al. 1989,Primavera 1991) these impacts often have resulted from
poor planning and management rather than something inherently destructive
about shrimp culture per se (Boyd 1996, Boyd and Clay 1998).

Although some of these charges have merit, others are not

supported by scientific data. Clearly, it is in the industry’s best interest to
engage in environmentally responsible methods of production if long-term
viability of the industry is to be achieved. Now, the researchers continue to
develop and evaluate approaches to shrimp culture that protect both the
natural environment as well as the shrimp culture environment. For example,
by reducing water exchange rates, effluent discharge is minimized, thereby
reducing nutrient and biological pollution in surrounding waters. In addition,
because influent water can serve as a vector for disease, the potential for
pathogen introduction into the shrimp culture environment is reduced.
In CAS in Marine Biology, Annamalai University, the research is
proceeding which include stringent prohibitions on wetland destruction,
regulation of effluents and support of research to eliminate and / or reduce
effluents, escapement prevention technology and development of high-health
stocks, minimizing entrainment of estuarine biota through water conservation
and screening technology, and regulation of chemical use in the shrimp
farming industry and support of research on shrimp pathology and
environmentally safe disease control. Work is still in progress and not all
problems have been resolved to the complete satisfaction. However, the
culture ponds in CAS in Marine Biology serve as a model of how to encourage
sustainable economic development through commercial shrimp farming while
abating adverse environmental impacts on estuarine systems. To further
improve the situation, the development and adoption of “best management
practices” for shrimp aquaculture is recommended.

Environmental impacts of Shrimp Farming

Globally, the most important adverse environmental effect of shrimp

farming is the destruction of wetland areas, primarily mangrove swamps, for
shrimp pond construction (Lee and Wickins 1992). Mangroves are of vital
importance to their estuarine ecosystems (Odum and Heald 1972). Shrimp
farming is one of the few industries that can profitably utilize wetlands, so
there is little competition for space from other interests. There is a definite
irony in destroying wetlands for shrimp pond construction. As productive
wetlands are removed from the estuarine system, wild shrimp populations
decline (Turner 1977) and the ability to recruit and/ or catch juvenile shrimp
for stocking ponds may be reduced. Local fisheries for shrimp and other
species are impacted.

Estuary Eutrophication from Shrimp Pond Effluent

A second important effect of shrimp farming on the estuarine

environment is the discharge of nutrient- laden pond water and
Eutrophication, or at least hepernutrification, of the receiving body. Under this
category, interrelated environmental impacts can take several forms including
dissolved oxygen demand of effluent, and increases in phytoplankton,
macrophyte, and microbial abundance in response to nutrient inputs.
Virtually all shrimp farms use water exchange to some degree (Lee
and Wickins 1992). Philips et al. (1991) note that production of a metric tons
of shrimp uses 16, 000 metric tons, 36, 000 metric tons, and 55, 000 metric
tons of water for extensive, semi intensive and intensive respectively.

Water Use and Entrainment of Estuarine Biota

Shrimp farms are largely dependent upon the use of estuarine

water for filling ponds and for subsequent water exchange. The discharge of
water and added nutrients, solids, and phytoplankton associated with pond
communities is a concern and so is the removal of estuarine biota in the
process of transferring water into ponds. While it is conceivable that estuarine
organisms could be pumped into ponds and later discharged back to the
estuary with effluent, this is not likely to occur and most organisms entrained
will perish in the process.

Environmental Effects of Chemicals Used in Shrimp Farming

In recent years, use of chemotherapeutics in aquaculture has

become a concern. In other animal production operations, such as the beef
and pork industries, antibiotics are frequently used on a continual basis to
prevent disease and enhance growth (CATOMA 1992). Beveridge et al.
(1991) lists a wide range of chemicals used in certain types of fish culture
including therapeutics, vaccines, hormones, flesh pigments, anesthetics,
disinfectants and water treatment compounds. They note that the chemicals
used in system fabrication may also find their way into water. The impacts of
these chemicals related to concern for human health and/or the estuarine
Aquaculture in Tamil Nadu

All the above problems discussed above are now present in Tamil

Here, aquaculture is considered as an outstanding issue for NGOs

and coastal people. The coastal waste lands which are not suitable for the
agriculture or any other purposes are successfully converted in to the shrimp
farms along the coast. The major species cultivated in the shrimp farms is
Penaeus monodon (Black Tiger Shrimp). It fetches around Rs.400/kg. The
short period of culture, availability of broad wastelands for a cheaper rate and
high profit has been attracting all towards aquaculture. This multimillion
dollar industry is giving a considerable amount of foreign exchange now
occupying almost all the coastal areas, from Thiruvalluvar District to
Ramanathapuram District. The severity of socio-economic problems caused
by aquaculture varied from place to place, which depends on the location of
shrimp farms adjacent to coastal villages. The salination of ground water is
the major problem for the villages. The storing of brackish water nearer to
villages increases the salinity of the ground water. Thus, several villages are
now struggling for the potable water. The Muthupet mangrove forest is one of
the ecologically important places which is now under threat of deforestation
from aquaculture. The effect on the environment can be reduced by the
application of scientific knowledge to manage the farms and proper
alternatives for drinking water. Here, the problem is not with the shrimp farms
but the poor management and lack of knowledge. A proper management with
scientific advice can maintain a shrimp farm with great reduction in pollution,
the village people have also reported that some self-seeking people use this
issue to make money from shrimp farmers. They simply provoke the rural
people for campaigning against aquaculture, but after the deal with the shrimp
farmers, they simply withdraw the campaign. Naturally, the mangroves act as
a bio-filter for waste effluents. For treating the effluents from 1 hectare of
shrimp farm, about 21 acres of mangroves are required. But in the Muthupet
region, around 1,200 hectares of shrimp farms are releasing their effluents
into 12,500 hectares of mangrove forest. So, the concentration of effluents in
the mangrove forest is extremely high which can cause negative effect to the

• Controlling the number of shrimp farms in an area.

• Regulation of stocking density and application of chemicals.

• Eradication of shrimp farms in the ecologically important areas.

• Proper alternatives should be given to the villages that are affected

by the shrimp farms.

• The construction of buffer zones between the shrimp farms and the
nearby paddy fields can reduce the effect of salinity on the fresh
This is the most destructive method of fishing, which is currently
proceeding in between Thondi and Rameswaram (Southern Palk Strait).
Thiruppalakkudi is one of the main villages where Bomb fishing is prominent.
When I visited that village, I perceived the blood stains of fishes which had
splashed on the sailing cloth. In this method, the fishermen cut the branches
of trees (Prosopis juliflora) and tie them in order to make the bunch with 3m of
diameter. This cluster is towed in the sea for about 500 to 1000 m distance
from the shore. It is kept there for a few days. The decayed leaves of
branches provide shadow and food for fishes. It attracts the small fishes
followed by the large. After checking the fish aggregation under the cluster,
the fishermen throw the locally made bomb on the cluster. Each and every
fish including larvae are smashed in to pieces within a second. The well-
conditioned fishes are then collected. The tragedy is, the bomb fishing
method gives only 10% of fishes to the fishermen. The remaining 90% are
not collected as they are blown into pieces.

• This illegal method is common in the above mentioned areas. The

ignorance of fisherfolks and the carelessness of the concerned
departments is the reason for the continuation of bomb fishing.
Some of the fishermen have lost their body parts in the bomb
accidents. As it is an illegal method, the accidents are being hidden.
Also, they cannot claim the insurance for the bomb accident. The
handicapped victims of bomb accident are now seen in the villages.

• The diversity and density of the species of small sizes and the sea
grass beds are immensely destroyed in the above areas.
It is another problematic fishing device. The mishandling of trawlers
is causing the problems to both environment and humen. The clash between
the trawlers and small boats is common along Tamil Nadu Coast. They
blame each other for illegal operations. The continuous monitoring of trawl
fishing in the prohibited areas is not practically possible in the vast sea.
According to the Government policy, the trawlers should be operated only 6
km away from the shore. But, the illegal operation in the prohibited areas is
going on as usual.

For example, in between the Point Calimere (Nagai Dist.) and

Adirampattinam (Thanjavur Dist), the shore length is more or less 70 km.
Here, the seawater is enriched with nutrients, carried from the Cauvery river
discharges. Moreover the bottom is shallow, furnished with dense seaweeds
and sea grasses. The high nutrient water from the Muthupet mangrove
region gets mixed here and increases the productivity. At present, this
amazing breeding ground is threatened by unauthorized trawl fishing. The
trawlers are furtively entering in to this zone during the nights. They operate
the trawl net, along the shallow coastal region and return before dawn. This
has been going on regularly, resulting in the damage of the flora and fauna.
Thus, the trawlers are making environmental devastation all along the Tamil
Nadu Coast by overexploitation, illegal operation and catching of non-edible
organisms that are called as the trash fishes. The trash fishes are containing
different variety of marine organisms. They were released back to the sea in
the past years. But, now they are utilized in the artificial feed preparation as
protein source. This continuous removing of benthic organisms is decreasing
the diversity, dropping the trophical level and weakening or altering the food
The coastal sand of Tamil Nadu coast is rich in
Garnet,Titanium,Thorium and other minerals. The Government allows the
digging of sand in the classical beaches with some restrictions. But, the
contractors do not bother about the rules, resulting in unlimited mining. Sand
mining has resulted in the coastal villages of Nagai, Tuticorin, Thirunelveli,
Kanyakumari districts and the Pondicherry being under the threat of sea
erosion and habitat destruction. This kind of illegal activities are now
removing the sand dunes that provide protection against cyclones. The high
level pressures from Government and businessmen control the protest
against sand mining. For example, People of Perumanal village, Tuticorin
district protested against sand mining. This resulted in an incident on
December 16, 1996. During this, a violence between people and police was
burst out that injured several persons, resulting in 6 cases against the village
people. The villagers have refused to ask any help from the Government
even the basic needs like water and electricity problems. I could observe the
fear and hesitation in the faces of village people while talking about the sand
It is a copper smelting plant of Tuticorin. The people of Goa,
Gujarat and Maharashtra heavily opposed the establishment of this Copper
smelting Plant. It is everybody’s guess why this Copper Smelting Plant’s
construction was rooted out from Ratnagiri (Maharashtra) even after an
expenditure of Rs. 200 Crores. The same plant was constructed in Tuticorin
in 128 acres. Within the two years, the construction was completed with 1300
Crores of expenditure.

No one would oppose when an industry comes up, provided there is

a balance between industry and environment. But we have to oppose tooth
and nail when something is encroaching other’s field. When many of the
native industries in and around us are giving employment opportunities to
millions of people, there is no necessity absolutely for another industry which
might harm the existing industries, agriculture, fisheries and human beings. It
is said that, the plant is using the out modeled and out dated, dismounted
machineries from the copper smelting plant of Chile Island. The main raw
material is the copper concentrate that is imported from other countries like
Australia and Africa. The other raw materials are fluxes, coal and lime stones
available indigenously. The copper concentrate contains 28% Copper, 26%
iron, 30% sulphur, 8% silica and 6% others. Even though it is a heavy
industry, a berth for this industry has been given at SIPCOT complex in
Tuticorin, which is only 5km from the thickly populated areas in and around
Tuticorin. The main purpose of the industry is to extract copper along with
other materials. During smelting, the sulphur is converted into sulphur di
oxide, which is used for manufacturing of sulphuric acid at the rate of
1200MT/day. The solid waste discharged in the event of peak production is
about 151,200 TPA. The quantum of water required for the operation of this
plant is enormous. The height of the Chimney is said to be only 60 meters.
The original proposal of disposal of effluents through15km pipe into the sea
was modified into an effluent storage tank near the industry, after heavy
opposition from the people particularly the fisherman community of Tuticorin.
• Respiratory disorders

• Leakage of gas in July 5, 1997 caused the unconciousness of 150


• August 20, 1997, the same was repeated.

• 13.5 million liters of water is required for strelite/day. It increases

water scarcity and water pollution.

• The stored waste is seeping down and gets mixed with the ground

Similar to the above, the sterlite and the thermal power plant is
causing a number of damages to the environment.
The marine ecosystem of the Gulf of Mannar is endowed with four
specialized ecosystems namely island ecosystem, mangrove ecosystem, sea-
grass ecosystem and coral reef ecosystem. The 21 islands in the Gulf of
Mannar on the south eastern coast of India extending from Rameswaram
island on the north and Tuticorin on the south, along with their marine
environment between latitude 8°47’– 9°15’N and longitude 78° 12’– 79° 14’E,
have been notified as India’s first Marine Biosphere Reserve (MBR). Most of
the islands have luxuriant growth of mangroves on their shorelines and the
sandy shores of the islands offer an excellent ground for turtle nesting. The
sea bottom of the inshore area around the islands is carpeted with sea grass
beds which not only serve as feeding grounds for sea cows( Dugong dugon),
but also harbours most of the other communities. Highly productive fringing
and patchy coral reef that surrounds the islands is the most complex and
delicate ecosystem, which is often referred to as “underwater tropical rain
forest”, a treasure house for marine ornamental fishes. This unique marine
ecosystem of Gulf of Mannar is one of the richest for biodiversity resources in
Indian subcontinent. About 36,000 species of flora and fauna are known to
occur in the Gulf of Mannar. The total area is 10,500 and commercial
fishing is done in about 5,500 sq km within 50m depths. Nearly 50,000
humans dwelling in 47 villages along the 180 km coastline bordering the Gulf
of Mannar side depends on the biodiversity resources of this Marine
Biosphere Reserve for livelihood.

Present threats to the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve

There has been considerable change in Gulf of Mannar when

compared to the last 25 years. This is due to industrialization and other
development activities along the coastal belt of the Gulf of Mannar. In the
Gulf of Mannar region, Tuticorin is under severe pressure due to increasing
number of industries on the coast. The major industries located in and around
Tuticorin are Tuticorin Thermal Power Station, SPIC, TAC, Dharangadhara
Chemicals and Tuticorin Salt Marine Chemicals. The ash discharge from the
power plant and chemical waste effluents from industries are adversely
affecting the sea grasses and coral ecosystems in the vicinity. Other
disturbances including trawler operations, destructive fishing using dynamite
or poison and dredging harbour channel.

The Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay act as protected basins where
there is high deposition of suspended sediments carried by littoral drift. These
suspended sediments in the surface coastal water affect the marine habitats,
especially coral reefs and fish population.

Based on the observations made by several researchers, the plume

of suspended load from Vedharanyam, moves towards Jaffna and also
towards Rameswaram islands. Considerable amount of suspended load from
the Palk Bay enters it to the Gulf of Mannar and it further moves towards
Tuticorin harbour and its spread gets reduced beyond this area probably due
to the obstruction by harbour structure. Such deposits of sediments would
ultimately affect the sensitive ecosystem especially the coral reefs.

Impact of sethusamudram canal project

The Government of India has proposed to implement the

Sethusamudram Canal Project in The Gulf of Mannar. This Project will affect
the marine ecosystem of the Marine Biosphere Reserve as constant dredging
throw up will deposit on the coral reefs, which will smother the rare fauna and
flora and ultimately destroy the unique, endemic and endangered species. At
present, the frequently passing ships are releasing oils and other wastes
which would completely disturb the marine habitat in the coastal areas of
Tuticorin. Progressive disappearance of live coral beds inside the Tuticorin
harbour, islands of Tuticorin and surrounding areas testifies this. Further, the
larvae of pearl oysters, fish and polyps of coral reefs are not tolerant to
excessive concentration of pollutnts like oil, chemical wastes and thermal ash,
which affect the entire ecosystem in Tuticorin coastal areas.

The impacts and threats to the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve

owing to the implementation of Sethusamuthram Ship Canal project are
expected as follows.

• Frequent passage of ships will disturb the habitat of endangered,

endemic, unique and threatened species.
• The Dredging activities will damage the coral reef and sea grass
ecosystems by sedimentation, oil spills and other wastes.

• Degradation of benthic community.

• Loss of biodiversity.

• Reduction in fishery production.

• Introduction of exotic species and harmful biofouling communities

through the passage of ships.

• Loss of income sources (low level fish catching) to coastal


• The pollutants from the ships will kill the remaining reefs, which will
never rejuvenate.

• The authorities will prohibit fishing in the shipping route.

• Hundreds of fishermen will be evicted from their native place for this

So, while implementing the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project, we

will definitely loose our great gift of nature. It is just like the killing of a person
for a beautiful coffin. Most of the people of Tamil Nadu including politicians
are approving the Sethusamudram Canal project. But, they all will know when
the reality will bite in future. This Project may be most benefited one for the
ship owners, businessmen and multimillionaires. A fisherman of the Gulf of
Mannar region will not get any profit, but will definitely loose their jobs. It is
proved that the coral reef is one of the rich biodiversity areas, next to the rain
forests. In Southeast Asia, our Gulf of Mannar is the first Marine Biosphere
Reserve. The Central and State Governments set up the GOMMBRE on
18.2.1989 jointly. The Government of Tamilnadu in G.O.Ms No.962 dated
10.9.1986 have notified the declaration of the 21 islands of the GOM as
Marine National Park for the purpose of protecting marine wild life and their
environment up to 3.5 fathoms on the bay side and 5 fathoms depth on the
seaward side, under section 35(1) of the wild life (Protection) Act 1972. The
Sethusamuthram Canal project will dig out tonnes and tonnes of corals from
the Gulf of Mannar, the great castles of marine life. Thus, fishing in the entire
south coast will be greatly reduced.
It is the current issue among the people about the Cudankulam
Atomic Power Station and its jeopardy. Several countries are now closing
their Atomic Power Plants and avoiding the new construction of this kind.
Government officials have to explain the safety and have to give the
guarantee for people’s life. Instead of this, a present scientist of Atomic
research reported to a newspaper that they would take strict action on the
persons who are speaking against that Project. The people living around the
atomic power station are very much worried about their future.

Apart from the future effects, now itself it silently affects the rights of
the Perumanal catamaran fishermen. In the monsoon season, the sea is
usually rough. Hence, they are used to do fishing in the southern side, where
the river meets the sea. But, now the big pipes are installed in the sea from
the atomic power station. Accidents of small boats and catamaran, tearing of
net with the pipes is now common in that area. So, the Atomic Power Station
affects the daily income of this villagers and the sand mining erodes their
houses. In a NGO report, the atomic plant was first planned to be constructed
in Kerala. But, after the refusal by Kerala Government, this project came to
Tamil Nadu. It is also constructed nearer to the densely populated areas like
Nagercoil, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari.


• The Atomic plant authorities should come close with the people and
try to understand their problems.

• They should create the awareness about the importance, need of

electricity production from the risky method in the southernmost part
of India and the safety of the Atomic Power Station.
• They should form a separate council for the improvement of
surrounding villages, which will increase the interaction and good
opinion from the villagers.

• The method of nuclear waste disposal should be explained to the


• They should give the first preference to the nearby villagers for job

• They should not release the heated effluents in to the sea directly.
I could see day-to-day problems faced by the coastal people. I
could feel their problems when I had stayed, slept and talked with them. I
brief them here.


A good potable water is not available in any of the villages. The

people are struggling for a glass of drinking water especially, the coastal
villages of southern districts. Sand mining and misplaced shrimp farms are
responsible for the salination of ground water. The Ramanathapuram District
is now facing the maximum level of water scarcity. They are having only dried
wells, air blowing pipes but not a drop of potable water. Walking up to 1 to 3
km for water is the daily responsibility of women in those areas. The milky
white water (due to soil) from the man made pits is used as potable water.

Common Reasons

• Artificial pumping of ground water in the coastal towns lead to

salination of ground water.

• Sand Mining reduces the water holding capacity of the soil.

• Holding of saline water in misplaced shrimp farms near the villages

increases the salinity of ground water.

• The water gradually decreases or sometimes dries off in the rivers.

• Illegal occupation of fresh water ponds for house construction.


The forgotten word in most of the coastal villages is ‘sanitation’.

The majority of the village houses are not having toilet facilities. They are
simply using the beaches and near by bushes. The error is not only with
regard to money but also due to mentality of people. The marine fishes are
free from pollution with delicious taste, but, when they are handled in the
landing centers, they are getting pathogens of all diseases. The NGOs are
now changing this situation slowly.

Average income of Tamil Nadu fishermen = 50-100/day


Financial status is decides the opportunity for learning education,

thinking about the environmental awareness and struggle for rights. The poor
people in the coastal villages need money for net, boat repair etc., so, they
need the help of Government or other sources. For an immediate solution,
they get it from the moneylenders. The people for the credit pay 5% - 10% of
interest. This cruel money lending business cannot be avoided in the critical
situations. But, it swallows a considerable part of the earned money. This is
now slowly changing. The Government is advocating bank savings to the
village women through NGOs. Each village is divided in to cluster and then
groups. Each group has 20 women. They put money in banks in the name of
the group continuously. If anyone of them need money, for medicinal or
educational or emergency purposes, the required money is withdrawn and
given to the concerning member of the group. Here, the role of the NGO is,
visiting the villages and explaining about the importance of Self Help Groups
(SHG). They induce the village woman to join in the SHG and weekly training
is conducted in the field centers. This is one of the best Government Projects
that is successfully carried out by NGOs in Tamil Nadu. This plan has been
successful in reducing the money lending business in hundreds of villages.

The involvement of outsiders in fishing, other than the traditional

fishermen is creating trouble for the environment and fisherfolks. The rich
outside people investing their money in mechanized boats and urge the
workers to scrap the sea and bring out whatever available in the net. The
poor fishermen are working in the trawlers only for a meager salary. This is
one of the reasons for environmental destruction.


The fuel is used in the form of wood, kerosene and gas for cooking.
The second and third are comparatively expensive than the first. (Prosopis
spicifera) the plant is the main source for wood in the coastal area. The rate
of kerosene is rose from Rs.3 to Rs.16 rupees within the last 7 - 8 years.
Only the middle and higher classes use the LPG. The people below the
poverty line are depending only on the wood. The women and children are
daily collecting the dried plant materials. In Mangrove regions like Pichavaram
and Muthupet, they are using mangrove plants like Avicennia sp. for fuel.
But, now the cutting of mangroves is strictly prohibited. The introduction of
biogas utilization is now being tried by a NGO in the southern districts, but it is
only in the initial stage. An NGO is trying to regenerate mangrove forest in the
Pichavaram and Muthupet areas. The mangroves of Muthupet are being used
illegally for the arrack preparation as fuel wood within the forest, which is the
major reason for the mangrove depletion in the Muthupet mangrove forest.
The fishes listed in the table were caught and sold in the market in
an adequate amount, ten years ago. Even though they are now available, the
capture is very less than the past. It indicates stock depletion of those fish
populations. The environmental changes and other harmful man- made
activities are causing the stock depletion. The regional variation in the
vernacular name of the fishes makes the matching of scientific name difficult.
For example, Lactarius lactarius (used in traditional medicine) is called in
Tamil as sudhumbu in Pulicat region, as surumbu in Cuddalore region and as
Kuthippu in the Southern Districts.

Zone 1: Pulicat through Chennai

Vernacular Name. Scientific Name.

1. Pal sura Scoliodon sp.

2. Koduva Lates calcarifer
3. Pala Kendai Chanos chanos
4. Vellai era Penaeus indicus
5. Kaala Polynemus sp.
6. Ora Siganus jayus
7. Seppili
8. Odan Gerres abbreviatus
9. Madavai Mugil cephalus
10. Kavalai Sardinella sp.
11. Paarai Carangoides sp.
12. Poovali Opisthopterus tardoore
13. Sudhumbu Lactarius lactarius
14. Ullan Hilsa ilisha
15. Vaalai Trichiurus sp.
16. Kezhutthi Arius sp.
17. Kalla thazhai
Zone : 2 Mahabalipuram to Cuddalore region:

18. Sudhumbu Lactarius lactarius

19. Poruva Engraulis taty
20. Thattai Kavalai Sardinella sp.
21. Vaalai Trichiurus sp.
22. Saavaalai Trichiurus sp.
23. Therai Kutthuva Pellona indica
24. Choodai Sardinella aldella
25. Panna Johinus sp.
26. Kaala Polynemus tetradactylum
27. Sitthela
28. Vengan
29. Thattanankarai
30. Velluda Pertica filamentosa
31. Pala Kendai Chanos chanos
32. Vowel Pampus sp.
33. Sankara Lutjanus sp.
34. Paal sura Scoliodon sp.
35. Thokkara Leiognathus sp.
36. Perunthankikarai Leiognathus sp.
37. Matlesi Escualosa throracata
38. Anaikathalai Johnius sp.
39. Thovai Cepola abbreviata
40. Sennakunni Aecetes sp.
41. Kandal
42. Musakkamparai Caranx sp.
43. Valankamparai Caranx sp.
44. Karthigai vaalai
45. Therankanni Stoleophorus indicus
46. Surumbai Lactarius lactarius
47. Vankarachii Harpodon nehereus
48. Ullam Hilsa ilisha
49. Nethili Stolephorus sp.
50. Surumbu Lactarius lactarius
51. Kaakkan Pomadasys kaakan.
52. Panni Epinephelus sp.
53. Vela meen Anoxypristis cuspidatus
54. Kanavai Octopus, Loligo sp. and Sepia sp.
55. Karuval Ullam Hilsa sp.
56. Poikkam
57. Poikutti
58. Nangal kutti
59. Komban sura Sphyrna zygaena
60. Kezhuthi Arius sp.
Zone : 3 Palk Strait region:
61. Kuural Protonibea diacanthus
62. Komban sura Sphyrna zygaena
63. Mundankani
64. Vela meen Lethrinus nebulosus
65. Panna Johinus sp.
66. Kuthuppu Lactarius lactarius
67. Semmeen Lutjanus sp.
68. Koravi
69. Kizhangan Sillago sihama
70. Seela Scomberomorus sp.
71. Karal
72. Senkani Psammoperca waigiensis
73. Kattikalai Ploydactylus sp.
74. Katta
75. Vowel Pampus argentius
76. Kadavura
77. Kumula Rastrelliger faughni
78. Nai manjala Saurida tumbil
79. Uluvai Eleotris sp.
80. Savalai Trichiurus sp.
81. Kuural Protonibea diacanthus
82. Sala meen Sardinella sp.
Zone: 4 (Pamban to Kanyakumari)
83. Vela meen Anoxypristis cuspidatus
84. Mural Hemiramphus sp.
85. Arunthal
86. Komban sura Sphyrna zyganea
87. Kadavura
88. Navarai
89. Savalai Lepturacanthus savala
90. Seela Scomberomorus sp.
91. Poovalai
92. Netheli Stolephorus sp.
93. Samba kuni Acetus phorous

94. Kaala Polynemus tetradactylum

95. Kuthippu Lactarius lactarius
96. Singi era Polyneuras pomaras
97. Iluppan
98. Katta meen Polydactylus sp.
99. Kuural Protonibea diacanthus
101.Vaniampanna Johinus sp.
102.Kuzhi panna Johnius sp.
103.Pal vekkai
104.Sala mean Sardinella sp.
105.Pothikezuthu Arius sp.
106.Mambazhakezhuthu Arius sp.
107.Salpa kezhuthu Arius sp.
108.Madakku era Penaeus semisulcatus
109.Uluvai mean Eleotris sp.
110.Vellai kuri meen
111.Vedakomban Sphyrnea zygaena
113.Theekkuchi meen
Though, 52 species of different Phyla are banned by the Ministry of
Environment and Forests, the ban on sharks is felt much among the
fishermen. So, here I am discussing some of the interesting information of
sharks and their fishery.

Sharks are generally cold blooded, large, cartilaginous fishes, which

are fast swimming, known for their numerous sharp teeth, distinctive dorsal fin
and skill in locating underwater prey. They are the members of
elasmobranches that live the same way they did more that 200 million years
ago. Sharks belong to the class Chondrichthys and subclass Elasmobranchii.
The estimated 375 species are divided in to 8 orders and 30 families. They
range in size from the dwarf dog fish( family:squalidae), less than 20cm in
length to the massive whale shark (family:Rhiniodartidae) which reaches a
length of more than 12m. Depending on the species, sharks inhibit either
shallow or coastal waters or the open ocean and some species such as six gill
shark (Hexanchus grilous) live at depths of more than 1800m.

The shark fishery assumed a lucrative role in view of its great

demand for their fins and flesh. The major products for trade from sharks

• Fins and fin rays

• Meat

• Liver oil, liver and fish meal

• Cartilage

• Skin and jaws

Shark fin is a highly valued commodity in overseas markets such as Hong

Kong, Singapore and other South East Asian countries, USA, UAE, Sri Lanka
and Europe where the shark fin soup is considered as a great table delicacy.
In India, the fins of the following species are being collected and exported

1. Sphyrna zygaena (Hammer head Shark)

2. Rhizoprionodon acutus (Milk Shark)

3. Scoliodon laticaudatus (Yellow dog Shark)

4. Carcharhinus melanopterus (Black tip reef Shark)

5. Rhincobatus djeddensis (Guitar Shark)

6. Negaprion actutidans (Sicklefin lemon Shark)

7. Rhiniodon typus (Whale Shark)

Shark meat

It is consumed locally, either in fresh or dried forms. Fresh shark

meat gained popularity in recent years. Large sharks fetch from Rs.1500 –
5000/piece at the major Fisheries Harbours such as Cochin (Kerala) and
Puri(Orissa). Small sized species (Scoiliodon sp.) are marketed fresh and
can fetch Rs. 75 – 150/piece in local markets.

Shark liver

It is a rich source of vitamin A and D. It was in great demand during

II World War. Large Sharks (Tiger Sharks, Hammer Head Shark and Black fin
Shark) are the commercially important species. The largest market for shark
liver oil is Japan where it is used by the cosmetic industry. Germany is also
employing shark liver oil in the textile, leather, paints and varnish industries.
Stearin and liver meal are the byproducts from liver oil. Stearin is used in the
manufacture of candles, soups and paints where as liver meal is used in
poultry feed.

There is an occasional demand for “Shark bone” which is powdered

and made into tablets (Source:CIFT), the price of which ranges from US$ 15 –
20/kg. It is reported to have anti cancer properties.


The skin of the sharks is processed in to good quality leather.


In India, there is an unorganized trade for shark jaws as curios.

The teeth are also used as beads on artificial jewelers.


Figure 1. Average share in quantity (t) of shark fin export from India to
countries of destination during 1995 – 99.

Now, the availability of all sharks is greatly reduced. The ban on

fishing of sharks is not easy. The target fishing is not a major fishing method
in our country. Whatever coming in the net or hooks has to be taken to the
market. So, how can we suggest them to stop the shark fishery without giving
a solution or a proper awareness among the people? In my survey, I could
observe that 99% of the fishermen oppose the ban on the 52 species,
especially sharks.
Reason for shark disappearance:

The following reasons are quoted for the reduction in number of sharks.

• Slow growth and long time for maturation. So, the recruitment is
not easy like other finfishes.

• Females give birth to only a few numbers of young ones, which

greatly varied from other fishes. For example, Sardines release
millions of eggs per season.

• The sharks like whale sharks are very slow in swimming,

defenceless and can be easily caught. The whale sharks are one
of the fastly depleting animals in the world. The adventurous
thinking of catching a big fish and heroism may be a reason to
catch the whale sharks.

• Overexploitation is considered as the primary problem.

• Habitat destruction is finally affecting the sharks through the food

chain (as they are the predators).

98% Not Accepted 2% Accepted

Figure: Opinion of TamilNadu fishermen regarding the Ban on 52

To know the view of the fishermen regarding the ban of fishing for
45 days, a survey was made in my trip. In the survey along Tamil Nadu coast,
85% of the fishermen agreed with the ban (including all types of boat
operators). 10% are, a part of the trawler operators who are not accepting the
ban. The remaining 5% includes the small scale fishermen using catamaran
are not worried about the ban. Of the total 85%, of agreed fishermen, 40% are
claimed a better alternative during the banning period. The remaining 45%
are accepted the ban on fishing for 45 days without hesitation. The sprit and
hurry in repairing the nets and vessels could be seen in the fishermen in the
last few days of banning period. However in some areas, some are operating
the vessels before the completion of 45 days. After 45 days, the operations
of trawl nets with minimum mesh size are depleting the recruits soon. The
coastal areas of Pondicherry Union territory are receiving 90kg of rice and
Rs.300 per family during the ban period. It is not possible for Tamil Nadu
where the coastal area is very long. The fishermen of the Tamil Nadu area
wish to find the remedies like in Pondicherry. Though the Tamil Nadu
Government announced the plans, it is not reaching the people in proper time.
The period selected for ban is not suitable for all fishes. Because, all fishes
are not breeding at the same season, some fishes are breeding only at the
monsoon period when the temperature is low. So, it is the controversy that
the ban period is not suitable for Tamil Nadu. Whatever it may be, the ban
supports the freedom of marine ecosystem atleast for 45 days.





1 2 3

45% claimed alternatives 40% accepting without hesitation

Figure: Showing the view of the Tamil Nadu fishermen on 45 days of ban
on fishing.

1. 85% - Agreed the ban {Red- 45% claimed alternatives, Blue- }

2. 10% - Not accepting

3. 5% - Not worried.
It is a group of endangered species. Till to-day, no special gear or
net has been devised exclusively to catch sea cucumbers. They are
defenseless animals and are easy to catch. 95 % of Sea Cucumbers are
collected by skin diving in the shallow waters of 2 – 10 m. Four to six divers
go in country boats with sails at sunrise and return in the afternoon. Even
small boys are engaged in diving operations. The divers take net bags in
which live sea cucumbers are brought to the shore. Aluminium flippers are
used for diving. Trawlers are collecting the entire sea cucumber of an area,
which also does harm to the bottom.

Areas of collection:

At present, sea cucumbers are collected from a narrow strip in Gulf of Manner
and Palk Bay. They are fished in the Gulf of Mannnar area from Pamben to
Tuticorin. In the Palk Bay from Rameswaram to Mallipatnam. Along the Gulf
of Mannar Chinnapalayam,Vedalai,Mandapam, Periapatnam, Kilakarai and
Tuticorin are important centers. In the Palk Bay, Rameswaram, Devipatnam,
Tiruppalakudi, Karankuda, Mullumonai, Tondi, Pasipatnam, Pudupatnam,
Ammapatnam and Kattumavadi are the most important centers.
Thiruppalakudi is the most important centre along the Palk Bay where there is

Sea Cucumbers of Tamil Nadu

Actinopyga echinitites

Bohadschia marmorata

Stichopus chloronotus (rare)

Stichopus variegates

Holothuria atra
Sea Horses are the member of the family Syngnathidae which
also include pipe fishes and sea dragons. They are found in shallow, coastal,
tropical and temperate waters, including coral reefs, sea grasses, mangrove
and estuaries. They primarily occupy less than 15m depths. Here, males
incubate the fertilized eggs in a brood pouch. Hence, it is called as “Mr.

Sea Horses are used as an ingredient in traditional medicines particularly

in South East Asia where traditional Chinese medicine and its derivatives
(eg: Japanese and Korean traditional medicines) have used perhaps for about
600 years. Sea Horses are credited with having medicinal a role to play in
increasing and balancing vital energy flows within the body, as well as
curative role for such ailments as impotence and infertility, asthma, high
cholesterol, goiter, kidney disorders and persistent nodules. They are also
reported to facilitate parturition, act as a powerful general tonic and as a
potent aphrodisiac.

In 1995, it was conservatively estimated that atleast 20 million Sea

Horses (more than 56 metric tones) were caught for the traditional medicine
market. In addition, more than one million live sea horses are caught for
aquarium trade, mostly destined for sale in North America, Europe, Japan and
Taiwan. The value of sea horses is quite high, the price of dried sea horses in
Hong Kong markets ranges from Rs. 11,500 to 50,400 (US$ 275 – 1200) per
kg depending on the species, quality and size.

In response to a significant increase in international demand, a

target fishery for sea horses along the east coast of India in the Gulf of
Mannar was started in 1992. India is one of the largest exporters of dried sea
horses globally, exporting atleast 3.6 tonnes(~ 1.3 million Sea Horses)
annually, and contributes to about 30% of the global Sea Horse trade.
Sea Horses are exploited both as an incidental catch (by-catch in
trawl nets) and target catch, for export. Along the Ramanathapuram coast,
dried sea horse is used as a medicine to arrest whooping cough in children.
Demand for medicinal purposes would grow at an annual rate of about 8 – 10
% in China alone.

There is also a substantial reduction in the size of the harvested

individuals and increased removal of immature males. The indiscriminate
exploitation of sea horses coupled with a general degradation of their habitat,
put their populations under pressure. Sea horse biological characteristics
such as slow growth rate (they take one year to attain maturity), low natural
adult mortality, structured mating patterns, low fecundity – with each pair
producing about 1000 young per year (very low compared to other fishes),
lengthy parental care, sparse distribution, limited mobility make them
vulnerable particularly to selective fishing pressure. The IUCN Red list of
Threatened Animals includes most of Indo – Pacific sea horse species.
Recently the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India
through a Gazette Notification has included all Syngnathids in Schedule I of
the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. But, the lack of promotion of
conservation awareness programmes among fisherfolks could drive the
underground trade and could divert the scarce resources towards
Tamil Nadu is unique in India in possessing five species of sea
turtles of which three species – the Olive ridley, the Hawksbill and the
leatherback – nest here (the last very rarely). The Coral and sea grass area
in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay provide rich feeding habitats for turtles.
4000 to 5000 turtles were being caught annually in the late nineteen sixties in
southern Tamil Nadu, three quarters being green turtles: olive ridleys and
loggerheads together formed one fifth of the total (Jones & Fernando, 1968).
Man has been exploiting sea turtles for several millennia, for eggs, meat,
shell, flipper hide, oil, fat or blood. He still does and will probably continue to
do so as long as possible. Haunting for subsistence (as defined by Frazier
1981), that relatively innocuous form of exploitation has been largely replaced
by commercial exploitation, which demands the slaughtering of thousands of
sea turtles, indiscriminately and year round, and where retailers and
middlemen stand to earn huge profits. (Sheker Dattatri,1984).

The rapid ‘development’ of beaches for recreation – preciously

inaccessible or untouched – for housing resorts or other constructions is
perhaps one of the most serious threats today and coupled with other forms of
disturbance or habitat modifications such as erosion preventive embarkments,
jetties, port etc., sand mining and lights on the beaches, to name a few that
have rapidly and seriously reduced the length of available suitable nesting

Nature of threat to turtle and their breeding

Human settlements, beach resorts, jetties, ports, erosion preventive

embarkments,lights on beaches, Fishing activities, beached boats, sand
mining for construction and black sand for Titanium ore, marine pollution
(sometimes even small plastic bags are eaten by turtles which block the
stomach resulting the death). Proliferation of mechanized fishing boats are
increasing the operational range.

Madras – Mahabalipuram beach:

Development of housing and beach resorts along the coast may deal the
death blow to the already heavily pressured Ridley population here. Control
on beach development, use of bright lights at night, pollution and other
problems discussed in the previous paragraph must be considered in
protecting nesting beaches near and in urban areas.

Point Calimere:

This Sanctuary has a beautiful turtle-breeding coast. Few years back, the
Government maintained a rearing center. Lack of funds, has forced to close
the center. The turtle eggs are facing problem from the wild predators of the
Sanctuary. Trained persons, funds, co-ordination between Forest Department
and local people will definitely rejuvenate the rearing center.

Here the superstitious belief is conserving the turtles. As the fisherman is

considering the turtle as unlucky animal, he won’t like to catch the turtle in his
net. But, if it is caught it is cut in to piece within the boat and taken to the
shore (in the Gulf of Mannar area). Once, turtle eggs were collected in a large
number all along the state beaches and sold in the local market. Now, the
pressure from Government has greatly reduces the egg collection. But, in the
Cuddalore District (last February), we, students have seen the persons with a
stick and a bag for the egg collection, during midnights and who ran fastly
when he thought us as the forest officials.
There are about 80 species of marine mammals in the world, that
include 10 species of Mysticete, 48 species of Odontocete, 20 species of
Pinnipeds and one species each of Dugong sp. and sea otter (O’Shea, 1998).
In India, these are 22 species of marine mammals reported so far (James &
Lal Mohan, 1987). Marine mammals are one of the most important biotic
constituents of marine environment. Among the marine mammals, dolphins
and whales have drawn the attention of people worldwide, as they have close
affinity with human being in many respects. They are warm blooded, their
breathing effected by lungs and they give birth to young ones which suckle
milk secreted by the mammary glands of the mother. Marine mammals
including whales are hunted and killed in pelagic expeditions. In the countries
like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, dolphin oil is used as liniment for treating
nervous disorders, rheumatism and burns and also as tonic for treating
impotency and asthma. Pregnant woman sometimes take dolphin’s oil with
the belief that it will ensure a healthy baby. Dolphin’s oil is mixed with banana
leaves and fed to cows to fatten before being taken to market. In addition,
disease outbreaks and infestation of parasites also drastically reduce the
populations. Sometimes, operations of gill nets cause hazards to marine
mammals, by way of accidental catch. Although some incidental mortality of
cetaceans has been occurring in fishing activities for a very long time
significant contribution of such mortality to the depletion of cetacean
population could be recognized only during the last 25 years.

*No fisherman is catching the Dolphins. Here, a Superstitious belief saves

the dolphin. The fishermen of Tamil Nadu are considering the Dolphins as a
God creature. Hence, they never disturb the dolphins when they come to the
There is a population of the dugong in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay.
Around a number of islands that exist in the Gulf of Mannar between
Rameswaram and Tuticorin, offer shelter and food to dugongs. Dugongs
were chiefly caught around Musal Island off Mandapam, Appa Island and
Balayamuni Island off Kilakarai. In Palk Bay, dugongs are recorded off
Adirampattinam, Devipattinam and Thondi.

In the Gulf of Mannar the number of dugongs has considerably decreased,

compared to easier times. It is likely that this is due to depletion of the stock
as a consequence of indiscriminate capture. Dugongs are fished in India
mostly for their flesh.

With its slow rate of reproduction and prolonged gestation period the
Dugong cannot withstand unscrupulous depredation. Enforcing the law
regulating capture should conserve the Dugong resources. There is great
need for giving the priorities to the act that takes adequate measures to
prevent indiscriminate capture as dugongs are in a very vulnerable position
with the operation of increasing numbers of nylon nets. Enforcement of
legislation should not pose much difficulty as Dugongs are continued to be
caught in shallow coastal waters and illegal capture could be easily detected.
As the fishermen are mostly illiterate and ignorant of the decrease in
abundance of dugongs as a consequence of thoughtless exploitation,
extensive propaganda has to be carried out by Government fisheries
department and Non Governmental Organizations.
Our present knowledge on the magnitude of resumes, population dynamics,
age and growth, reproduction biology and ecological aspects of the dugong is
very meager. Detailed investigations should be carried out on these aspects
as the information gathered will be helpful in proper management of the
resources. The sea cow is now very rare but if it is entangled in the net, it is
cut into small pieces within the boat itself and is sold secretly (1kg = Rs.60.).
I. The waste heated effluents from the North Chennai Thermal Power
Station should be properly treated and should not be allowed to mix
continuously in Pulicat lake.

II. The reason for erosion in the Rayapuram areas should be intensively
studied and suitable alternative such as implementation of stones and cement
boulder should be done.


IV. The effect of industrial effluents in SIPCOT area should be monitored

periodically. Legal action should be taken on the industries that overcome the
rules of Pollution Control Board

V. The Chemplast of Point Calimere should turn its drainage canal away
from the forest. The waste water should not be allowed to enter in to

VI. The number of shrimp farms near hamlet areas, stocking density and
application of chemicals should be regulated. The designing of buffer zone is
an effective way of reducing the environmental impacts.

VII. The over exploitation and catching of small sized fishes by trawlers
should be prevented through strict legal action. The Government should
control the net manufacturing companies to control the mesh size. It will be
very useful in the control of small sized fish capturing.

VIII. Bomb fishing should be stopped through the legal control on sales and
transport of explosives. The strict maintenance of law and order in the case
of bomb fishing will help to stop it.

IX. Sterlite and its continuous causes to the environment should be

extensively studied. The waste disposal should be regularly watched by a
committee, which should include the scientists, NGO staffs and local people.
X. The sethu samudram project may destroy the entire Palk Strait and Gulf
of Mannar by shipping. So, precautionary actions should be taken before
starting the sethu samudram project.

XI. The central government should declared the funding to establish the
turtle rearing centres in the nesting beaches of Tamil Nadu.

XII. The trade of sea horses, sea cucumbers, ornamental shells should be
regulated and alternatives should be provided to the people.

XIII. The Government should give importance to provide the basic

requirements like water, sanitation, education and loans to the fisherman
community through Non Governmental Organizations.

XIV. The people’s concentration on the environment, biodiversity

maintenance, eco friendly utilization should be improved through education
and visual media.

XV. The sea ranching of endangered species in association with the

awareness programmes, strict implementation of laws and order, suitable
alternatives for fisherfolks and the involvement of Non Governmental
Organizations and the research institutes will offer a good environment to our
future generations.


Fund to Research Fund to NGOs

Interaction between R & NGO




Rural Development

Environmental Development