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World sea life researchers seek way out of defence hurdle

A French research sailboat is now docked off the Gateway of India,the scientists on board seeking ways to overcome a hurdle that has come in the way of their mission - the first ever to track the marine ecosystem of the world.

A French research sailboat is now docked off the Gateway of India,the scientists on board seeking ways to overcome a hurdle that has come in the way of their mission – the first ever to track the marine ecosystem of the world.

Indian defence authorities have not allowed the scientists aboard Tara Oceans to work in Indian waters. They are now hoping the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa will provide them the details they need,and plan to make do with samples collected from beyond the limits.

“It is unfortunate that we couldn’t get due permission to collect water samples within about 200 nautical miles of India. We plan to collect samples from outside this limit to get an understanding of Indian water. We are also trying to rope in a few scientists from the NIO who can join us later,” said Chirs Bowler,who is heading the expedition in India.

Permission had not been granted in Oman either,said Bowler,a scientist with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

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The three-year expedition is studying deep water ecosystems and how marine life has adapted to environmental stress. Since it set sail from France on September 5,Tara has travelled 15,000 nautical miles with 20 stops before touching Mumbai.

Having crossed the Mediterranean Sea,the boat has about 65,000 nautical miles to cover. The plan includes the Indian Ocean in the first year,the South Atlantic and the South Pacific in the second,the northern hemisphere in the third. The expedition’s cost is estimated at 10 million euros.

The boat will be docked in Mumbai till Saturday before moving to Goa briefly and then going to the Maldives.

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“At any given time we have six scientists on board taking samples of seawater from various levels below 100 metres. In certain regions,where sunlight can penetrate and nutrients are found,planktons grow in abundance. These planktons are very sensitive to ecological changes and can give us a lot of insight into the ecosystem. Our expedition aims to create a database for future scientists,” said Bowler.

The study includes collection of and reports on microscopic organisms less than 2mm in size. It will also document sea temperatures,salinity and acidity at different spots. The information will be posted on the web.

Six sailors and two journalists are accompanying the six scientists.

First published on: 26-03-2010 at 12:20:38 am
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