Kendrapara, Jan 30 (LocalWire) Around 600 carcasses of Olive Ridley sea turtles and two dead dolphins were washed ashore recently on the beaches covering 30 kilometers of the Gahiramatha marine sanctuary, the world’s largest rookery of sea turtles, and its nearby areas from Hukitola to Eakakula beach.
“More than 600 dead turtles were found on the stretch between Hukitola to Eakakula beach. The turtles seemed to have died after getting entangled in fishing nets.
Many dead turtles bore injuries, pointing to the possibility that they were trapped either in a trawl or gill net,” said Hemant Rout ,an environmentalist and secretaryof Gaharamatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society (GMTMCS) .
The trawlers are supposed to fish beyond five kilometers as per the Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982 and beyond 20 kilometers from the coast in the marine sanctuary.
“But violating the law, hundreds of trawlers fish near the shore as a result of which the turtles are dying getting entangled in trawl nets,” said Rout.
“Forest and wildlife officials of Odisha have been hoodwinking the government and the people by providing less numbers of dead turtles to the authorities to save their skins.
The death of nearly 1.70 lakh turtles over the past 17 years is surely to adversely affect population of the endangered marine species,” he said.
The risk to turtles can be reduced by equipping trawlers with turtle excluder device (TED), which is a small additional net or metal grid inside the net that allows the entangled turtles to escape while the fish catch is retained.
“While the concept of enforcing legislation to use TED in trawler nets is not even remotely in sight, the government is planning to construct a riverine port at Akhadasali at the Mahanadi river near the Gahiramatha marine sanctuary.The proposed ports will increase the flow of traffic and thus, aggravate the threat to the sea turtles,” said Rout.
“We found many dead turtles recently on the beach and buried the carcasses on the beach. The state government has imposed a ban order on fishing activities inside the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary around 20 km off the shore from Nov 1 to May 31 to protect turtles,” said Srirampada Arabinda Mishra, forest range officer of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary.
He said forest officials have already arrested around 380 fishermen and seized 83 fishing vessels on the charges of illegally fishing in Gahiramatha.
The rookery of the turtles at Gahirmatha was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997 by the state government to protect the turtles.
“Besides preventing fishing in the prohibited zone, surprise raids are carried out on the fishermen to prevent them to fish within the turtle congregation areas,” said Mishra.