Action plan for protection of olive ridley turtles

The concerns of the environmentalists over the deaths of the olive ridley turtles in the process of reproduction every year will soon come to an end with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) coming out with a plan of action that involves all the stakeholders to ensure protection to the endangered species. Since East Godavari is one of the major nesting destinations with two conservation sites on the Hope Island and the Sacremento Island under the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, some of them die every year crushed by the fishing boats during their journey to the breeding grounds. The toll of the carcasses washing ashore is anything between 150 and 200 but it’s humanly impossible to figure out the exact number, as the deaths take place in the sea.

Falling under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, the turtles commence their journey from the Indian Ocean during their mating season in October and November. When they reach the Bay of Bengal, the females start laying eggs on the beaches. Each female lays 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug by it carefully and leaves the shore after covering the hollow with sand. Six weeks later, the hatched turtles start the journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.

Mothers vulnerable

Though the Forest department, in association with the NGOs, is taking steps to protect the eggs and release the hatchlings into the Bay of Bengal every year, no concrete steps have been taken so far to prevent the mortality of the mothers. “Though the use of Turtle Excluder Device (TED) by the boat owners could prevent the deaths, many owners are unaware of its features and apprehensive about the drop in fish catch owing to the use of the device. We have been conducting meetings with the fishermen and the boat owners explaining in detail the features of the device,” says Vinod Malayilethu, Senior Coordinator (Marine) at the WWF-India. “The idea is to involve all the government departments concerned along with the NGOs and accompany the boat’s crew during the season that begins in October. It will help us personally guide them on how to use the TED,” he explains.

Principal Scientist at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology U. Sridhar says in the absence of the TED, the fishermen are forced to carry the turtles in their nets.

“We have come out with the economics such as the amount spent on fuel for each trip on dragging the net. By installing the TED, they can get rid of the unnecessary baggage of the ridleys,” he points out.

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