OMCAR Foundation (Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness and Research) was founded by marine biologist Dr.Vedharajan Balaji in 2007. He started to convey the value of marine ecosystems to school children by showing his underwater photographs from local coast in 1999, which become his full time passion and profession at OMCAR. During his university days, his passion on marine conservation leads him to carry out 1200 km solo coastal awareness bike expedition in 2002, and 600 km solo sea kayak marine awareness expedition in 2006 along the southeast coast of India.
In 2011, OMCAR Palk Bay Conservation Centre was established with special focus on preserving dugongs and its habitat in Palk Bay. This centre serves as a open platform for providing 1) Stranding response for dugongs and other marine mammals 2) Active marine conservation education field trips to rural-coastal schools 3) Providing support for dugong habitat conservation research 4) Alternative livelihood support for fishers 5) Facilitation of stakeholder conservation meetings 6) Designing marine education tools 7) Providing technical support for coastal restoration and 8) Establishment of Community based Marine Protected Zones in Palk Bay. Apart from this, the centre also served as an emergency response and shelter for poor fisher families during natural disasters and organized many health camps for fishers with local government. A total number 7920 rural school students visited OMCAR Palk Bay Conservation centre in six years to know about the value of dugongs, local marine ecosystems and sustainable fishery. The students from poor fishing families has been getting opportunity to see marine life, underwater film show, scuba demonstration, marine conservation rescue and research equipments and solar cookers.
We provide transport, food and all of our field trip services for free of cost. 1780 fisher women were benefitted from our livelihood trainings, which includes dress making, cotton bag making, candle making, hygiene fish handling, dry fish preservation, mangrove nursery techniques, mangrove plantations and seagrass transplantation techniques. The trainees were involved in our mangrove and seagrass restoration projects after the training. In 2016, OMCAR Palk Bay Conservation Centre joined with local government to establish “Participatory Seagrass Protected Sites” in order to preserve the feeding grounds for endangered marine mammal Dugongs (sea cows) and for improving sustainable fishery in Palk Bay.
Dr.Vedharjan Balaji, Founder and Director of OMCAR Foundation, received IUCN-CEC Young Professional Award in 2012 at World Conservation Congress. OMCAR Foundation received Tamil Nadu State Government Environment Award in 2014. OMCAR Foundation received “India Geo-Spatial Excellence Award” in 2015 for using participatory GIS to grow community based coastal forests in Palk Bay. OMCAR Foundation is a member of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and national committee of IUCN-India formed by Government of India. OMCAR Foundation is also a member of Slow Fish . OMCAR Palk Bay Center is the community based conservation concept of our organization with a commitment for serving conservation of Palk Bay conservation and sustainable livelihood.