Training workshop on Conservation of marine environment and Improvement of basic knowledge and skills of safe diving to chank collectors of Tuticorin coast

Organized under the auspices of
Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu
Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI)
Venue: Bell Hotel, Tuticorin
Date: 17.07.2014

Tuticorin is called as Pearl City because of its traditional pearl collection profession. Pearl and chank collection and trade in Tuticorin coast have started before the Christian era and were attested by the accounts of travelers like Megasthene and anonymous author of Periplus, Sangam literatures and the archaeological excavations conducted at the ancient port towns of Tamilnadu. Pearl collection was stopped since 1960s because of the over exploitation of fishable oyster population in the beds, but chank collection was continued with the traditional breath hold skin diving method. Chank collection in Tuticorin region is now being done with surface supplied diving and the divers spend longer duration under the water. This diving is done using an air compressor fitted on board which is supposed to be used to fill air for the car tyres. The divers hold the regulator in their mouth and dive with a long hose of about 100 m.  The primary collection target is dead sacred chank (Paal Sangu), Turbinella pyrum.  Sandy sea bottom is dug with a pair of scrappers up to 2 m and the dead shells are collected. The collected chanks are transported to Kolkata by the local chank traders.


Apart from all the ecological disturbances, this type of diving is extremely dangerous as it has accounted many human lives so far. As an adventure sport, diving involves the risk factor and if not properly diagnosed and appropriately treated, some diving injuries can result in disastrous endings, particularly those involving the brain and spinal cord. Understanding the dive theory such as dive physics, dive environment, dive equipments, dive skills and dive physiology are mandatory to tackle the problems under the water. It is understood from the fishermen that most of the accidents happened were due to Decompression Sickness (DCS) which refers to the illness that happens because of the development of endogenous gas bubbles. The major symptom of this illness is the pain in the joints. Most of the fishermen who died felt pain in the joints initially and went to the nearby hospitals and took medications to reduce the pain before going for diving in the next day. Injuries related to decompression can be easily avoided if the divers are properly educated on dive theory. With the help of a dive planner, most of the accidents could have been avoided. Moreover, these divers are not aware of Emergency First Response (EFR) or first aid procedures during an accident. Besides, the dive kits they use are very weak and could harm them anytime.


At this juncture, Suganthi Devadason Marine Research institute (SDMRI), Tuticorin conducted an awareness / training workshop under the auspices of Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu on 17th July 2014 for the chank collectors with the aim to make aware them the importance of marine environment and need for conservation and the basic dive physics, physiology, skills and emergency procedures.


The District Forest Officer, Tuticorin  Thiru. S. Shenbagamurthy, I.F.S., presided over the inaugural function of the workshop. The Joint Director of Fisheries, Tuticorin Region Thiru. R. Amal Xavier inaugurated the workshop. Thiru. A. Francis Aloysius, Asst. Conservator of Forests (Green Squad), Dept. of Environment and Dr. J.K. Patterson Edward, Director, SDMRI participated.


The technical sessions were conducted by Dr. K. Diraviya Raj, Assistant Professor & Dive Instructor at SDMRI and Dr. V. Deepak Samuel, Scientist at National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai.