UNDERWATER

‘Out of view, out of mind’ is a well-know axiom, best exemplified by the neglect of underwater fauna by conservationists till now. In India, most of the conservation laws and initiatives had been on terrestrial land, for forest and mega-vertebrates. Till recent years, the sight of corals, sea-grass beds, sea birds, marine fish, aquatic mammals and sea snakes was to be enjoyed in the pages of National Geographic or admired in equally stunning documentaries. Most people, even educated conservationists thought that such rich marine biodiversity exists in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia or around some remote atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Who knew that equally if not richer marine life exists in the territorial limits of India, particularly around the two islands groups, Andaman & Nicobar, and Lakshadweep, and near the coast of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Odisha.

Thanks to the development of underwater photography gears and scuba diving equipment, the wonders of marine life of India is now been increasing appreciated, photographed and protected. Neither marine life is now out of view or out of mind. We can say, the more out of view it was for a long time, the more tantalizing it is to discover new underwater frontiers.

And, what a discovery it is. According to a very conservative estimate, the Indian coastal and marine areas have 25 species of marine mammals, 2,546 species of marine fish, 3,370 species of mollusca, 3,498 species of crustacea, about 30 species of marine snakes and five species of marine turtles. The numbers of so-called lower forms such as protozoa, diatoms, algae, etc are too many to mention here.