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3,000 Olive Ridleys perish in Orissa

By Bibhuti Mishra

Sify News

3rd January 2004

The rare Olive Ridley turtles for which Gahiramatha in Kendrapara district of Orissa is the largest rookery in the world are again in peril.
With the nesting season beginning in November, they began coming to the beach for laying eggs, but by now more than 3,000 have perished distressing wildlife enthusiasts all over. The government, however, puts the figure at 785.

The major reason is unabated fishing in prohibited areas by trawlers that are not using TED (Turtle Excluder Device).

The state government had banned fishing at the three major rookery sites of the Olive Ridley-Gahiramatha, mouth of the river Devi and mouth of the river Rusikulya. The ban came into effect from November 1 and would be on till March 31. But fishing trawlers are openly flouting the ban thus violating the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982.

Apart from being disturbed by fishing activities, turtles are also getting killed as the trawlers are not using TEDs violating an Orissa High Court order.

The Chief Wildlife warden S Mohanty admits that the trawlers are not using TEDs and thus causing deaths of the turtles despite the fisheries department giving away 1800 TEDs to trawler owners. Because of the large-scale death of the Olive Ridleys, there is now a demand for cancellation of the fishing licenses of the trawlers. A total of 52 fishermen and 19 fishing trawlers have been seized for illegal fishing. But that obviously is not enough.

The local policemen and defence personnel are guarding over the turtle eggs and as dogs and jackals could feed on that the eggs are being transferred to the artificial incubation centre. Lakhs* of turtles are slated to come in January and February. But with these shy creatures dying in such large number it has become a major headache for the environmentalists who are urging the government to tighten the vigil with the help of the coast guard.

* 1 Lakh =100,000.00 – Origin India - nomenclature term