TN should emulate Odisha to safeguard Olive Ridley turtles

Chennai: Centre today submitted in the Madras High Court that the state government should emulate Odisha and bring out a regulation banning motorised vessels and trawlers using mechanised fishing techniques within 20km from the coast, to safeguard olive ridley turtles and their habitat.

Assistant Solicitor-General Su Srinivasan, representing central agencies and government, furnished a copy of the comments and recommendatory notes prepared by Indian Coast Guard (CG) for protection of olive ridleys, before the court which suo motu took up as PIL a report on Olive Ridley turtle deaths published in an English daily.

The CG report, prepared in September last, also spoke of steps to be taken to protect the endangered marine species. He also furnished a copy of the October 24, 2013 notification of the Odisha government, banning mechanising fishing practices in 20km along the state’s coast.

Among other things, the Coast Guard suggested a study to identify most probable places of turtle landing/nesting, and issue notification prohibiting fishing by mechanised vessels till 12km from the coast.

It also sought amendments to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh Marine Fisheries Regulatory Act. Besides initiating penal action against erring fishermen, authorities must direct them to install turtle excluder device (TED) in their nets to prevent turtle deaths, the report said.

Counsel for fisherfolk, however, told the court that fishermen along the Coromandel coast worship turtles as god and hence they do not indulge in sea turtle fishing and no one eats turtle meat.

“Whatever mortality happens to sea turtle is purely due to incidental entangling in the fishing net…”such turtles are released back into the sea. Trawlnet fixed with TED weighs heavy and is difficult to operate.”

The state government is of the view that while conservation of sea turtles is essential, government should ensure that it does not affect the livelihood of poor fishermen.

The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh, adjourned the matter to June 4 for further hearing.