The Hikkaduwa National Park is one of the two marine national parks in Sri Lanka. The National Park contains a fringing coral reef with a high degree of biodiversity. The area was declared a wild life sanctuary on May 18, 1979, and then on August 14, 1988, upgraded to a Nature Reserve with an extended area. Both natural and human activities increased the degradation of the coral reef. In an attempt to stall further degradation, the reef was elevated to the status of ‘National Park’ on September 19, 2002.
Corals of 60 species belonging to 31 genera have been recorded from the reef. FoliaceousMontipora dominates the coral reef whilst branching and encrusting species have also been observed. The inshore areas of the reef have massive colonies of Faviidae and Poritidae. Staghorn, Elkhorn, Cabbage, Brain, Table and Star corals have all been recorded at various times. The reef has recorded over 170 species of fish belonging to 76 genera. Sea grasses and marine algae are common in the seabed at depths ranging from 5–10 m providing feeding grounds for the Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley – three species of sea turtles which have been categorized as threatened in IUCN’s Species Red List.
Despite being designated as a protected area, the reef has suffered high rates of degradation due to both natural and human activities. The live coral cover decreased from 47 percent to 13 percent in a coral bleaching event, induced by the 1998 El Niño. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami also left its impacts. The introduction of mechanized fishing boats to the reef lagoon, the tourism boom and the collection of ornamental marine fish for a lucrative export market have left further irreversible impacts on the reef. Marine scientists have suggested that at least 30-40 percent of the coral reef should be restored in order for it to be capable of sustaining itself.
Over the years, several management measures have been taken by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and successive Special Area Management Plans have been prepared by the Coast Conservation Department for the long term survival of the reef.
This project to assess the damage and rehabilitate the coral reef at Hikkaduwa Marine National Park in was financially supported by Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC. Project was implemented by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. As a Patron Member of Biodiversity Sri Lanka (BSL), the Bank requested the support of BSL to undertake a progress review of the coral planted areas, in order to assess the progress of the work undertaken. This assessment was undertaken by IUCN, Sri Lanka, Biodiversity Sri Lanka’s technical partner.
- Ecological study and a status report
- Management plan and re-planting programme
- Monitoring and Assessment of Reef Restoration Attempts
Project initiated in: 2015