Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Lakhs of Olive Ridley turtles embark on their journey for nesting along Odisha coast every year, little aware of the fate which awaits them. Thousands of them get killed after being stuck in fishing nets, but that is soon going to change, thanks to Turtle Excluder Devices (TED).

The Departments of Forest & Environment and Fisheries have introduced TED, which will allow turtles to slip through fishing nets instead of getting tangled in them.

“This device will help in reducing turtle deaths. After speaking to fishermen and conducting some field trials, we will get to know how feasible it is,” said R Raghu Prasad, Commissioner cum Secretary of Fisheries & Animal Resources Development Department.

Chief Wildlife Warden, Harishankar Upadhyay said, “Demonstration will be given to the fishermen on how much loss they have to incur after using this device. After that a final decision will be taken on its usage.”

In the older devices, nearly 40% fishes used to slip through the nets. But the new TEDs will allow only 2 to 3 % slippages, informed an official of the Fisheries Department.

“Till the time fishermen don’t cooperate, using this device will be difficult,” said P K Mohan, Advisor, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Sources said as TEDs are not used along the coast of Odisha, fishes and prawns are not exported to USA and Europe but with the use of such a device, fishermen will be benefitted and biodiversity will be protected.

However, fishermen are not convinced on using the TEDs.

A fisherman from Astaranga, Debraj Chhatoi said, “The claims of 3 to 4 % loss are not true. We have used it and the loss is around 30 to 40%.”

According to the Forest Department, as many as 9.75 lakh Olive Ridley turtles in 2016-17 and 11.10 lakh in 2017-18 had come to Odisha coast for nesting.

As per reports, around 5,000 Olive Ridley turtles are killed every year in Odisha after getting stuck in fishing nets.