In a proactive move aimed at preserving the marine ecosystem, the Tamil Nadu Government has unveiled ‘Project Dolphin’ as part of the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat program. This ambitious endeavor, with an allocated budget of Rs 8.13 crore, seeks to safeguard the highly endangered marine dolphin species and promote the overall well-being of the marine environment. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, a haven for more than four distinct dolphin species, will be a key focus area for the project’s implementation in the fiscal year 2023-2024. ‘Project Dolphin’ encompasses a range of activities, including the estimation of dolphin populations, enhanced protection and surveillance efforts, and a heightened awareness campaign.
Supriya Sahu, the Additional Chief Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change, and Forest department, emphasized the significance of this initiative, noting that more than nine marine dolphin species thrive in the coastal waters of Tamil Nadu, with the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve serving as a vital habitat for these majestic creatures.
Last year, in a heartening achievement, the department successfully rescued and released seven dolphins back into the sea within the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve. This area is renowned for its rich marine biodiversity, housing not only marine mammals like dugongs but also a host of other species.
Dolphins, as the statement pointed out, play a pivotal role in maintaining the ecological balance of the marine environment. However, they face a myriad of threats, both natural and human-induced, including hunting, entanglement in fishing nets, overfishing, climate change, ship strikes, tourism activities, toxic contamination, noise pollution, oil and gas development, and habitat degradation.
To address these challenges, the ‘Project Dolphin’ envisages the use of modern technology to engage with fishermen and other ocean-dependent communities, ultimately aiming to boost the population of dolphin species while safeguarding their habitats. Furthermore, the initiative will enhance livelihoods in local communities.
The project’s comprehensive approach includes rescue and rehabilitation efforts, strengthening veterinary services, and habitat improvement through the restoration of coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, corals, and sea grass.
In a bid to raise awareness and garner support, the project will celebrate ‘National Dolphin Day,’ actively involving local communities and educational institutions. Additionally, a ‘Dolphin Scholarship’ program will be launched to promote a deeper understanding of these remarkable creatures and their habitats. ‘Project Dolphin’ stands as a testament to Tamil Nadu’s commitment to marine conservation and sustainable coexistence with its natural treasures.