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Home » Plan your Tour » Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park

Area: 560 km² (216 sq mi)
District(s): Thoothukudi & Ramanathapuram
Established: 1986
Controlled By: Tamil Nadu Ministry of Environment and Forests

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a protected area of India consisting of 21 small islands and adjacent coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar in the Indian Ocean. It lies 1 to 10 Km away from the east coast of Tamil Nadu, South India for 160 km between Tuticorin and Dhanushkodi. It is the core area of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve which includes a 10 km buffer zone around the park, including the populated coastal area. The park has a high diversity of plants and animals in its marine, intertidal and near shore habitats. Public access inside the Park is prohibited.

The 560 km² (216.2 sq mi) park is part of the 140 km long and 25 km wide Mannar barrier reef. It lies between 8° 47’ to 9° 15’ N latitude and 78° 12’ to 79° 14’ E longitude. The 21 islands vary from 0.25 ha (.6 acre) to 130 ha. (321.2 acres). Total area of the islands is 6.23 km² (2.4 sq mi)

The islands includes Vaan, Koswari, Vilanguchalli - now 1 m below mean low tide level as a result of excessive coral mining, Kariyachalli, Uppu Thanni, Puluvini Challi, Nalla Thanni, Anaipar, Vali Munai, Poovarasan Patti, Appa, Talairi, Valai, Mulli, Musal, Manoli, Manoli-Putti, Shingle, Poomarichan, Pullivasal, Kurusadai, was recently populated.

Its surrounding shallow waters harbour three species of seagrass that are found nowhere else in India. Representatives of every animal phylum known (except amphibians) are found on this island.

The park includes estuaries, mudflats, beachs and forests of the near shore environment. It also includes marine components such as coral reefs, seaweed communities, sea grasses, salt marshes and mangroves.

Following are some of the species found in this area
About 450 species of fishes   About 90 species of crustaceans
About 200 species of sponges   About 100 species of Echinoderms
About 260 species of mollusk   5 species of sea turtles
14 species of dolphins   6 species of whales
1 species of sea cow   13 species of Mangroves
147 species of Seaweeds   12 species of Sea grasses
Pthychodera fluva (Balanoglossus)   Enhalus acuroides (a Seagrass)
Pemphis acidula ( a mangrove)  
In addition highly endangered marine organisms such as finless porpoise, Dugong, Blue whale, Spinner Dolphin etc., are recorded to be regular visitors to the area.

Mangroves dominate the intertidal zones of the park islands. They consist of species belonging to the Rhizophora, Avicennia, Bruguiera, Ceriops and Lumnitzera genus. Mangroves: photo gallery. Introduced Prosopis genus of tree species are dominant on land in all the islands. Pemphis acidula (Lythraceae family of flowering herb) is the only endemic plant species. 147 species of sea grass in the highly diverse communities of this area is the highest number of species recorded in India. This vegetation provides important feeding grounds for the vulnerable marine mammal Dugong, endangered Green turtles and Olive Ridley turtles.

Dugong, a vulnerable marine mammal is the flagship mammal of the park. It is an important habitat for the Cetaceans: Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, finless porpoise, spinner dolphin and common dolphin.

510 (23%) of the 2,200 fin fish species in Indian waters are found in the Gulf, making it the most highly diverse fish habitat in India. Coral associated ornamental fishes belonging to the family Chaetodontidae, (butterfly fish); Parrotfish; Amphiprion spp (clown fish), Holocentrus spp (squirrel fish), Scarus spp (parrot fish), Lutjanus spp (snappers) and Abudefduf saxatilis (sergeant Major) are abundant.

A unique endemic species of Balanoglossus - Ptychodera fluva, a living fossil that links invertebrates and vertebrates, has been recorded only at Kurusadai.

4 species each of shrimp and lobster, 106 species of crab, 17 species of sea cucumber, and 466 species of mollusc including 271 gastropods, 174 bivalves, 5 polyplacophorans, 16 cephalopods and 5 scaphopods, 108 species of sponge, and 100 species of echinoderm occur in the Gulf.

The coral fauna includes 106 species from 30 genus of hermatypes and 11 species from 10 genus of ahermatypes, including 13 new species, giving a total of 117 species from 14 families and 40 genus. The reefs in this area are narrow fringing reefs located 150 to 300 m. from the shore of the islands and patch reefs rising up from depths of 2 to 9 m. and extending up to 2 km. long and 50 m. wide. Large areas of these reefs are in generally poor condition due to destructive human activities of the 150,000 persons living along the coast. Nutrient and other pollution loads are high due to agriculture, deforestation, industry, urbanization and septic pollution. It appears that the Coral reefs of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park seem to be healthy and in good condition, despite high rates of sedimentation and other threats. However, live coral cover is only about 35%. Various algae cover much of the dead coral.

Stony coral species belonging to Poritidae and Faviidae sub orders constitute the dominant reef builders here. Coral reefs near some of the islands have been heavily damaged by exploitation as raw materials for industrial ventures such as cement industries, brick manufacture, masonry work and lime kilns. Though legal quarrying of the reefs is now stopped, up to 250 m3/day of reef were destroyed for many years.

The islands are uninhabited except for Krusadai, Musal and Nallathanni islands where antipoaching sheds are operating. Along the coast near the park there are about 125 villages which support about 100,000 people who are mainly Marakeyars, a local Community principally engaged in fishing.

Visitor Information
Glass bottomed boats available at Mandapam cater to tourists visiting the area. Access to the Islands is prohibited. The nearest railway stations are at Mandapam and Tuticorin.

Dr.V.K. Melkani, I.F.S.,
Chief Conservator of Forests and Trust Director,
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GOMBRT),
366, Vandikara Street,
Solaikili Towers,
Ramanathapuram :623 501.
Ph :04567 -226 335
Fax :04567 -229 228
E-mail : gombrt_rnd@yahoo.co.in

Thiru.V. Naganathan, I.F.S.,
Eco Development Officer,
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GOMBRT),
366, Vandikara Street,
Solaikili Towers,
Ramanathapuram 623 501.
Ph :04567 -226 335
Fax :04567 -229 228
E-mail : gombrt_rnd@yahoo.co.in
Personal E-mail : nag_ifs@rediffmail.com

Wild Life Warden
Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park,
Opposite to RDO office,
Rameswaram Road,

Author - Liberty Writer
Lasted updated - February 3, 2008
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