The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay located between the southeastern tip of India and the western coast of Sri Lanka.
Geography: It is part of the larger Laccadive Sea in the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It is bounded by the southeastern coast of the Indian subcontinent on the west and the western coast of Sri Lanka on the east.
Biosphere Reserve: It is known for its rich biodiversity, and it has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve includes not only the gulf itself but also the adjacent coastal areas and islands.
The reserve is home to a variety of marine life, like coral reefs, sea grasses, and a diverse range of fish species. It is also an important habitat for various species of marine mammals and sea turtles.
Islands: The Gulf of Mannar is dotted with several small islands and islets. Some of the notable islands include the Pearl Banks, Hare Island, and Manoli Island.
These islands contribute to the overall biodiversity and provide nesting sites for birds and resting places for marine animals.
Coral Reefs: This is renowned for its coral reefs, which are among the most diverse and well-preserved in the world. The coral reefs support a wide array of marine life, making the region ecologically significant. The corals in the Gulf of Mannar are part of the “Nine Degree Channel” coral complex.
Marine National Park: It is home to the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, which was established to protect the marine ecosystem and biodiversity of the region. The national park includes a significant portion of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.
Pearl Fisheries: Historically, the it has been known for its pearl fisheries. Pearls were harvested from the Pinctada radiata oyster, and the region was once a major center for the pearl trade.
Conservation Challenges: It faces various conservation challenges, including overfishing, pollution, and unsustainable tourism. Efforts are being made to address these issues and promote sustainable practices to protect the delicate marine ecosystem.
The Gulf of Mannar, with its ecological importance and diverse marine life, is not only a critical area for biodiversity conservation but also contributes to the livelihoods of local communities through fisheries and tourism. The designation as a Biosphere Reserve and the establishment of protected areas aim to balance human activities with the conservation of this unique marine environment.