Special drive to protect Olive Ridley sea turtles in Odisha

Berhampur: With Olive Ridley sea turtles expected to arrive for mass nesting in the Ganjam coast of Odisha soon, forest officials have launched a drive to sensitise fishermen to adopt measures to ensure the safety of the endangered species.

The drive is necessary as most of the deaths of the Olive Ridley turtles are caused by fishing trawlers, experts said.

While 153 Olive Ridley turtles were found dead in the Ganjam coast in 2016-17, around 175 dead turtles were found in the 40-km long coast in 2015-16, a senior forest official said.

Every year the state government imposes a ban on fishing activities with the use of mechanised trawlers along the 170-km coast in the state during mass nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles.

The Olive Ridley sea turtles start arriving for mass nesting near Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district from the third week of October to the first week of November.

During the period, mechanised trawlers used for fishing are banned in the ‘No-Fishing Zone’ stretching up to 20-km from the coast.

“We will take stringent action against trawlers found violating the prohibition when it comes into force,” Divisional Forest Officer, Berhampur, A K Behera said.

The fisheries department and forest officials will jointly conduct patrolling to crackdown on illegal fishing activities in the area, he said.

While the department has two speed boats, at least two trawlers would be hired for patrolling purpose, the DFO said.

Odisha traditional fish workers union, however, urged the authorities not to impose restriction on fishing with motorised boats, as it does not harm the turtles.

“We also urged the authorities to compensate the loss of livelihood due to the ban on fishing activities, said its union secretary, K Alleya.

The DFO said the forest department has also sought cooperation of wildlife activists, local NGOs, local industries and Gopalpur Port authorities.

Lakhs of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles visit Gokharkuda-Purunabandh area near Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district every year for mass nesting.

Over 3.70 lakh Olive Ridley turtles laid eggs near the Rushikulya river mouth during mass nesting from February 14 to 22 this year.

In India, the Gahirmatha beach and the Rushikulya and Devi river mouths of Odisha are famous as the world’s largest Olive Ridley rookery.