Monday, March 7, 2011

Bird sloshing at Marine Sanctuary!

I was with a group of deaf youth looking for a likely spot to go and see something exotic and we pinged on the Jamnagar Marine Sanctuary. Walking around among corals and looking at sea life promised to be a fun way to spend a few hours.

I turned up at the Jamnagar forest office “Van Sankul” only to find it festooned with flowers and bustling with jeeps all bristling with red lights and antennae. I was nonplussed, how did they know I was coming?? Turns out it was not for me and the forest officer was not getting married; actually Min of Environment Jairam Ramesh was to arrive shortly and inspect their operation. Actually he was there to meet the ICZM “Indian Coastal Zone Management” team.

I was impressed. Jamnagar is a little off the beaten track on the west coast of Gujarat, and here he was inspecting stuff. My taxes at work I said to myself as I popped the big question. “No no no. the marine Sanctuary at Pirotan Island is closed and has been for a while” said the 3 star rated forest officer, and then looking at me pitifully as one looks at someone who just does not get it, “the minister is here today”. I said “I am here with 70 deaf people and we need to see the coral reef and the animals of the sea and …. And…. We only have today.” He came up trumps thank God and said “Oh then you can go to Nirara that is open still.” Boy that was close. Almost missed out completely. So got back to the buses and landed up at Nirara which is east of Jamnagar past the Reliance refinery. Say what??Huh?? More on that later.

The buses stopped and I got out to check out the office. Walking in to the yard I see two great big bones like 10 feet long just standing there, mute testimony to a massive fish that obviously lived off shore. Er…. I hope there is no boating to be done I thought to myself. That fish looked like it would probably swallow the boat and people whole.

I asked and was told that the bones were from the whale shark. A harmless plankton eater, we are safe I told myself, only to find that we were not going anywhere in a boat and the trip was a walk on the tidal flats of Nirara peninsula. The forest officer there was in mufti and did not charge us the 100rs per camera, just took 100rs for mine and let us go. Sweet chap. (70 cameras.. he would have cleaned up big time)

Our guide was an old man and he said he could not speak Hindi hardly at all but knew all about the ocean and its creatures and its vagaries so he would explain it to us as we went along. “That’s great I said but try as much Hindi as possible.”

The walk took us down the road to the beach and the mangrove forest starts right there and goes all down the sides along the beach. The tide obviously recedes a fair bit and we were able to slosh along for about 1.5km into the sea past the high water mark.

All along the way there are live shells underfoot and we were told to wear shoes, no one is allowed to go there bare foot cuz you can get cut. Walking along the guide suddenly charges forward and grabs something in the water and comes out with a crab. Not super big only about 5 inches across. “This one bites” he said as he gave it his metal rod that he carries to turn over rocks. The crab held the rod without any problem, that is about 500gms in his claws. Wow! We took few pics and moved on and this time he got a bigger one just a few feet ahead.

Clumps of seaweed were stuck to rocks in the water and there were two distinct types of weed, one brown and with small leaves and what looked like seeds stuck on and the other plain green, looking for all the world like pale spinach. Walking on I spotted a puffer fish and the guide grabbed it and showed us how it puffs up. Apparently this fish has type two obesity. It blows itself up so you cant hurt it and becomes all spiny and unswallowable. Interesting!
There are these little red things like tentacles in the sea floor and as you approach them they compress themselves underground again. I never figured out what they were but the guide said they were sea creatures that lived under the sea floor. Duh! I had that down. The guide then found a sea cucumber. Now this thing is really aptly named. It just could be a cucumber and until it squirts water at you out of a hole on each end, you are all ready to slice it onto your sandwich.

Going along the guide turns some rocks over and lo and behold I had a brittle star in my hand. I felt really bad cuz bits of it broke off in my hand but they grow back so…. Anyway I put it away under the rock again and left it alone. Somehow interfering in its life bothered me esp when bits come off! Jeez!

There were a few rocks with red coral polyps live polyps growing on them and a bunch of dead corals as well. We saw live moon coral, and the other red coral, then dead brain coral, dead plate coral and dead staghorn coral It seemed to me that there was a fair amount of silting going on too and maybe the corals were not getting their fair share of clean water. There was a sponge, as well, making the best of his evening tea-time plankton and he looked unconcerned when we all crowded around. The guide said if he did not like us he would have buried himself under the sea floor, since he did not, I was cool.
Well, all you had to do was look up at the horizon past the pelicans and painted storks and you could see the oil tankers lining up to pipe their payloads into the refinery. The harbingers of death to this fragile ecosystem. The tide is obviously strong and if there was to be a spill here, there is no way that the Nirara area would survive. I really wonder how the refinery was built a few km down from the Marine Sanctuary. Boggles the mind. Imagine getting directions to a Marine Sanctuary as being just past the refinery. Er.. which was here first the coral reef or the refinery. Hello!!!!

Heading back so we could make it out before sundown I got a few shots of a bird I dunno which one yet. Looks like a plover. Oh and I got the bane of the sea besides. An old fishing net, just sitting there, waiting to get entangled and drown some poor sea creature.

The mangroves get really drowned in the tides it seems after seeing them festooned with sea weed. The last look back to the setting sun and the gorgeous tidal flat so rich with life and so fragile. Mangroves are a threatened tree species if I am not mistaken and there are 7 species in India.

Just as I left I gave one last longing look back and saw over the tops of the trees, past the roosting pelicans, the lights on the tankers come on; I said a prayer for Nirara as we headed back home.

No comments:

Post a Comment