Pradeep Pattanayak

With the setting in of the breeding season of Olive Ridley Sea turtles, thousands of these marine guests have swathed the 20-kilometre-long stretch from Devi river mouth to Dhamara river mouth in Kendrapara district.

These marine creatures generally migrate from the Pacific Ocean to the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, considering it to be a safer nesting ground. 

Meanwhile, the Forest department has taken all the arrangements along the entire stretch to ensure the safety of the turtles. The department has taken various awareness programmes involving fishermen, trawler owners and local NGOs. 

Artist Srikant Das is reportedly creating awareness through his paintings. “I want to say through my paintings that these turtles play a significant role in sustaining biodiversity and marine ecosystem,” said Dash. 

On the one end of the spectrum, the Forest department is pulling all stops to ensure the safety of these critically endangered marine creatures; and on the other hand, trawler owners are flouting the restrictions imposed with impunity. 

From the fact that the Forest department has so far seized eight trawlers and arrested 80 fishermen, it can well be understood the gravity of the situation. 

“The number of turtles visiting Gahirmatha has started dwindling. This is because the safety net has no longer been like it used to be before. Patrolling boats have been developing technical glitches. So it can't be said that the patrolling has been intensified,” observed secretary of Gahirmatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society, Hemanta Rout. 

However, the Forest department is claiming that it has laid emphasis on providing safety to the turtles. It has also intensified the patrolling. 

“The turtle nesting season has set in since November 1. In order to ensure the safety of the turtles, we have set up 16 turtle protection camps including 14 onshore camps and two offshore camps. While one offshore camp is located at Bahubali, which is our permanent camp and the second one is at Madali, which is temporary,” informed Rajnagar DFO Sudarshan Gopinath Yadav.

(Reported by Prabir Kumar Nayak from Pattamundai, OTV)