Mrunal Manmay Dash

Once touted as the heaven for the Olive Ridley sea turtles, the coastline along the Puri district in Odisha has turned into a graveyard for the endangered species.

Despite restrictions on fishing imposed by the local administration during their nesting season, scores of dead turtles are being washed ashore along the beach from Debinashi in Astaranga to Krushnaprasad on a daily basis.

As per reports, spotting dead Olive Ridleys at the mouths of Devi, Keluni, Kushabhadra and Nuanai rivers has become a daily affair for the locals.

It has been alleged that despite restrictions on fishing trawlers, some fishermen have been catching fish in the deep sea in the banned zones. Turtles who try to swim to the shore to lay eggs are either hit by the trawlers or caught in the fishing nets, either way ending dead at the shore.

The deaths of endangered turtles have evoked concern as well as criticism from across the State.

Ravindra Bisoi, a member of the Fishermen Association said, “Neither the Fisheries department nor the Coast Guard provides any guidance to the fishermen. The turtles die after coming in contact with the propeller of the trawlers.”

"We often ignore the matter by thinking that only one turtle has died. But in actuality we are killing 70-80 hecklings which would have born from its eggs,” said Srimanta Das, a social activist.

The Forest department has set up 13 temporary breeding centres along beaches in Astarang, Konark and Puri for the safe breeding of Olive Ridley turtles.

The district administration enforces restrictions on fishing every year between Devi mouth and Chilika lake along Keluni mouth from November 1 to May 1 to keep the turtles safe during their nesting season. The police have also seized at least eight trawlers in the sea violating the restrictions.

Asked about the turtle deaths, the Additional Fisheries Officer (Marine), Sudhansu Mallik said, “While we cannot deny external factors, there are other natural reasons responsible for their deaths too. We are taking all the possible steps to keep them safe here at Puri.”

It is pertinent to mention here that several social organisations have been demanding strict norms to save the endangered species and also trying to create awareness and drag the attention of Odisha government by trending the hashtag 'Save Olive Ridley'.

(Reported By Madhusudan Mishra, OTV)