India. Mithapur, Gujarat. The Saurashtra coast in Gujarat always amazes a visitor. Famous more for its salt pans and the Tata Chemicals plant at Mithapur (TCL), the region also boasts of rare coral.
The best part is that these corals and the colourful marine life can be viewed at the coral reefs close to the shore in the Jamnagar and Mithapur area. These areas, specially the Mithapur beach area, have a very rich coral life that is accessible at low tides. You don’t need to dive in to enjoy viewing an amazing world of live coral.
Research and preservation
Mithapur is a small town where the Tata Chemicals Ltd has its chemical production plant. Tata Chemicals in association with Wildlife Trust of India has undertaken the research work and protection of this coral reef that is teeming with diverse marine life.
The reef at Mithapur harbours six different types of hard corals including brain coral, star coral, moon coral, plate coral, porites coral, and staghorn coral. The total area of the reef is about 3 square kilometres.
Only a hundred feet off the shore, the kaleidoscopic show begins. Standing on the fringe of a tide pool, you can see an entire world of colourful creatures. You can see various crabs, eels, octopuses, small coloured fish moving in the maze of coral formations, and sea hare resting under a few corals. You can also spot a wide variety of shells, such as cowries, spires, murex, conch, limpets, etc.
Protecting the corals
Mithapur corals were not known to exist until recently but the reef was dying a slow death due to the fishing activities along the Mithapur coast. Often the fishing nets got entangled on the coral formations and were abandoned by the fishermen because they are hard to remove. They not only disturbed the coral growth, but also proved virtual death traps for marine creatures, including endangered marine turtles.
TCL has taken the initiative to counter this. They have banned all kinds of fishing activities near the reef and launched an extensive cleaning program of the area to remove nets. Results of these programs have already started coming in and the steady growth and sighting of new corals have provided support to these claims.
It is a race against time to see the reef, as the low tide stays for a short time and then the high tide starts gushing in and you have to bid goodbye to the magnificent corals.