Maharashtra State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) approves to declare e 2,011 square kilometre Angria Bank as a protected area. The proposal will now be sent to the Centre for approval and action.
The Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr Uddhav Thackeray, on Friday SBWL approved three key projects including the declaration of Angria Bank as a “designated area” under the Maritime Zones Act, 1976. The other two were the appointment of Sonneratia alba as state mangrove tree, and a recovery programme for Arabian Sea humpback whale.
A school of snappers (Lutjanus gibbus ) cruising in the mid water of Angria Bank
Angria Bank is a submerged plateau situated 105 km offshore from the southern coast of Maharashtra. The region ranges from depths of 20m to 400m. It supports a large extent of coral reefs and algal habitats, spanning across 650 square kilometres that harbours a high diversity of associated flora and fauna. The reefs also host diverse functional groups that are necessary for a stable ecosystem representing a resilient reef.
In order to explore the region, in December 2019, a 10-day joint expedition was conducted by the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS-India) and Mangrove Foundation along with partner institutes using the Fishery Oceanographic Research Vessel (FORV) Sagar Sampada, commissioned under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). During this expedition experienced marine biologists and trained professional SCUBA dive instructors surveyed a total area of 3500 square meters by conducting 66 individual dives at 12 sites. In particular, the team employed coral reef monitoring protocols and collected data on benthic composition, coral community structure, abundance and diversity of reef fish and invertebrates.
Expedition team along with the crew of FORV Sagar Sampada
During the expedition, team recorded exceptional diversity of reef fish with representation from all functional groups that are essential for a stable ecosystem. The Bank is not only a stronghold for marine life within the Northern Indian Ocean but also bears the immense potential to act as a source habitat for populations for several ecologically important marine species.
The gentle swaying of a seafan or gogonian colony at Angria Bank
Maharashtra government giving a nod to declare the 2,011 square kilometre Angria Bank as a “designated area” under the Maritime Zones Act, 1976 is a very positive step. India is signatory to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is thus committed to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which prescribes conservation of 10% of coastal and marine areas. Once approved by the Centre, Angria Bank will be the first marine protected area that is located in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country. It will not only help India in achieving its international commitments, but also help in conserving the unique marine biodiversity occurring in its open ocean and deep seas.