Colourful Corals in Sri Lanka
Wonderful Corals in Sri Lanka

The Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is naturally blessed with a charming coastline. However, this little island is not only famous owing to its shoreline, but also due to many other marvels that it houses. However, the corals in Sri Lanka, are a main aspect of the Sri Lankan underwater world that attracts visitors. In fact, Sri Lanka is copious with a huge number of coral reefs with plentiful biodiversity. Hence, thousands of tourists make this a reason to visit Sri Lanka annually. As a result, corals play a prominent role in the economy and tourism industry in Sri Lanka as well. So, we thought of focusing this read on the corals in Sri Lanka. Continue reading to know all about them!

The Importance of Corals in Sri Lanka

Being a tropical island, it provides the best climate for the growth of coral reefs. Following the research, more than 180 hard coral reef organisms have been found in Sri Lanka. Besides, the coral reef species in Sri Lanka provide a habitat for a lot of plants and animals that live in the sea. They contribute to maintaining the oceanic biodiversity and indirectly contribute to developing the fishing industry.

Contribution to preventing coastal erosion is another huge benefit of coral reefs to the ecosystem. Moreover, coral reefs help to reduce floods. Also, coral reefs have elemental, artistic, and pleasurable appraises. The elegant look of coral reefs and the biodiversity of the coral reefs are crucial parts of Sri Lanka. In fact, coral reefs are providing an attractive scenario for scuba drivers, beach admirers, and fishermen who do fishing leisurely. In addition, anyone has the chance to engage in snorkeling in these areas. And yes, touring coral reefs in Sri Lanka is very attractive as it’s a convenient approach for sure.

Types of Corals in Sri Lanka

There are three major types of coral reefs in Sri Lanka. They are as follows. 

  1. True coral reefs
  2. Beach rocks
  3. Rocky habitats

This segmentation is based on coral cover and coral composition. True coral reefs live under the substratum and generally, they are not clearly visible. Also, they do not have a large number of species. Moreover, beach rock coral reefs’ growth is peripheral and infrequent. They are broadly spread in Sri Lanka. They can be seen by the side of the coast in the intertidal zone.

Furthermore, Sri Lanka is having a large number of variations of corals and other reef species. According to the research, 171 species of stony corals belonging to 65 generations have been documented so far in Sri Lanka. In addition, the research proves that there are nine main habitual reef-building coral families in Sri Lanka. These families are as follows. 

  1. Acroporidae
  2. Faviidae
  3. Poritidae
  4. Pocilloporidae
  5. Agariciidae
  6. Caryophyllidae
  7. Muscidae
  8. Merulinidae
  9. Oculinidae

Fungoid corals live in depths higher than fifteen meters. Moreover, fungoid corals are hardly visible in coastal line reefs. In northwestern locations, fungoid corals are prevailing mostly. Similarly, Dendronephthya and Sarcophyton are the two popular soft corals generations in Sri Lanka.

Coral Locations in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the majority of the coral reefs can be seen along the North, Southern, Western and Eastern seashores. To be specific, the coral reefs are common around the Jaffna peninsula in the northern region of the country. Moreover, on the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, the corals are visible from Mannar island to the Kalpitiya peninsula. Similarly, in the eastern region of Sri Lanka, corals are widely available from Trincomalee to Kalmunai. Besides, if someone is hoping to visit the coral reefs in the down south and deep south areas of Sri Lanka, they can easily find the corals from Akurala of the Galle district to Tangalle in the Hambantota district.

Barrier-type coral reefs exist along the Western coast of Sri Lanka. They are more commonly visible in the sites such as Vankalai, Silavathurai, and Bar reef.  However, most of the Sri Lankan coral reefs are fringing-type coral reefs. Most of them are occupied on the bathymetric contours.

Corals in Hikkaduwa

Among the national parks in Sri Lanka, there are three marine national parks. Out of all, Hikkaduwa has attractive and amazing coral reefs as well as one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. Thus, Hikkaduwa is a world-famous travel destination among travelers all over the world.

Hikkaduwa is located in the southern coastal area of Sri Lanka. It belongs to the Galle district and is nearly 100 kilometers away from the commercial capital of the country which is Colombo. Corals in Hikkaduwa give a habitat for millions of species living in the Asian incontinent and provide great biodiversity to the ecosystem. Moreover, most of Asia’s best coral gardens can be visualized in Hikkaduwa. Coral reefs found in the Hikkaduwa region belong to the fringing category.

Many different types of coral organisms live in Hikkaduwa making great biodiversity. There are about 60 coral organisms and 170 reef fish in total. Elkhorn, Staghorn, brain, cabbage, star, and table are some such varieties. They belong to the families of Poritidae, Montipora, and Faviidae. Furthermore, the coral reef in Hikkaduwa is home to many different types of marine living beings too. These marine living beings include sea turtles, dugongs, as well as different types of invertebrates like crabs, prawns, oysters, sea worms, and shrimps. 

Observing the Corals at Hikkaduwa

The corals in Hikkaduwa live in a superficial location and its charming and amusing plants and animals provide an excellent site for snorkeling, aquatic photography, and scuba diving. Between November and April is the perfect time to visit Hikkaduwa. It is because the ocean is quiet and has better underwater visibility in this period.

The inexpensive and effortless method to contact the coral reef is snorkeling. Initial snorkelers can get an outstanding adventure in the lagoon coral reef. Newcomers can get a significant initiation through the quiet and clear water in the Hikkaduwa reefs. Furthermore, there are many things to find out in Hikkaduwa for scuba divers.

Hikkaduwa Marine National Park was the beginning site for the entertaining diving and coral-watching industry of Sri Lanka through its bounteous diving sites and influence of the travelers. However, at present, there are many places and service providers that create this opportunity for travelers. Black Coral Point, Kiralagala, and Godagala are a few famous dive sites for scuba divers. These places give constant chances for marine photography and underwater surveying.

Corals in Jaffna

Jaffna Peninsula is located in the northern region of Sri Lanka and it has nearly 293 km of coastline. This coastline consists of extensive fringing coral reefs. Most of these coral reefs were not surveyed until recently due to a number of reasons. In fact, these corals in the Jaffna peninsula had to undergo some highly destructive fishing practices like the use of explosives during and following the decades of civil war that took place in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka for 30 years. In addition, the people overfished many species, including invertebrates and many other ecologically important herbivorous fish. Unfortunately, this made a phase shift from coral dominated to algal-dominated reefs. 

Conducting studies and other research about the corals in the Jaffna peninsula was a bit challenging. This was mainly because of the lack of availability of the marine topography and substratum of the area. However, accessing the area has made some more challenges. Recent research has found that out of all the other coral existing parts in Sri Lanka, the coral reefs of the Jaffna have a greater diversity of scleractinian corals and a relatively high percentage of live coral.

Bar Reef in Kalpitiya Peninsula

The bar reef is a system of coral reefs found in the Kalpitiya peninsula of the North-Western province of Sri Lanka. Puttalam is the nearest city to the bar reef. Thus, anyone who visits this place has to come to Puttalam first. The researchers say that out of any coral reef in the waters around India, the bar reef in Kalpitiya has the greatest biodiversity. This is one of the few pristine coral reef systems in Sri Lanka and the government declared it a marine sanctuary in 1992 as a result. 

The bar reef in Kalpitiya Peninsula covers an area of around 307 square kilometers. One end of this complex of reefs is at the northern end of the Kalpitiya peninsula while the other end is at the islands which separate Portugal Bay from the Gulf of Mannar. Furthermore, the bar reef in Kalpitiya becomes home to 283 species of fish and 156 species of coral while having high ecological, biological and aesthetic significance. After officially establishing the bar reef as a sanctuary, the Department of Wildlife Conservation was granted the authority to govern it. 

Over the years, the bar reef was under threat due to natural enemies as well as human activities. The natural enemies are crown-of-thorns starfish, sedimentation, and coastal erosion. Human activities include over-exploitation of fish resources, unsuitable fishing methods like deep purse seining, and pollution from human activities like prawn farms and agriculture.

Current Status of the Corals in the Country

It is very important to commence studies and researchers to find out the threats to the corals and solutions for those threats to the corals in Sri Lanka. Conserving this prestigious coral for the future is a tremendous step to preserve the ecosystem of the country.

Currently, many coral reefs have mostly degenerated due to activities done by people in Sri Lanka and foreign visitors. The developing quantity of deposits accumulating into the sea is the greatest hazard to the Sri Lankan coral reefs. Most of the time, it happens as a result of the state of clearing the trees, oceanic erosion, law quality cultivating activities, and law quality constructions. Besides this huge influence, coral reefs are used for a large number of mercantile utilities due to their freely approached availability. Popular utilities are assembling aquatic animals for the aquarium industry, fishing, and tourism industries. 

What are the Necessary Steps Taken to Safeguard Corals in Sri Lanka?

There are plentiful government and non-government organizations, and departments in Sri Lanka to administer the functions around the seashore. NARA (The National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency) is one of the major organizations which contribute to protecting the natural coral reefs in Sri Lanka. 

The following two main acts contribute to protecting the corals in Sri Lanka. 

  1. Fisheries and aquatic resources act
  2. Flora and fauna protection ordinance

The fisheries and aquatic resources act prohibits Illegal mining, storing corals, and fishing in reserved lands which causes harm to the corals in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the environment that the coral reefs are living in is to be advocated as a nature reserve, sanctuary, or national park according to the flora and fauna protection ordinance. Therefore, this act minimizes approaching illegal people and the public to the reserved area. Furthermore, the coral reefs in Sri Lanka get indirect protection through the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Act. This act consists of provisions to regulate and control development activities within coastal zones, prepare coastal zone management plans as well as survey the coastal zone. 

Apart from the legal protective steps, there are many other solutions to reduce as well as prevent the destruction of corals in Sri Lanka. Launching line fishing techniques or using fine mesh barrier nets as alternatives to cyanide and dynamite fishing is one such step. Another step that can be taken is rehabilitating and restoring degraded coral reefs. This will help coral ecosystems to re-grow on their own. Furthermore, education and training programs should be conducted focusing on the vulnerable communities whose income and livelihoods depend on coral-related activities. However, the Department of Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management has already started a few educational programs for communities and police in the coastal areas. 

The Bottom Lines

After all, corals are real treasures in Sri Lanka. They are indeed a reason for tourists to visit Sri Lanka, as well as to make the Sri Lankans explore the coastal towns. Hence, these treasures need to be preserved. So, let us all do our part in preserving these wonderful corals for the future world. Happy and safe traveling!