21 December 2008

Olive Ridley sea turtles in India

Only two nestings had occurred during the last three months on Goa's beaches.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Indian shores, thousands of Olive Ridley turtles were found dead.

According to a media report, "the turtles get entangled in fishing trawlers and gill nets and the fishermen kill them with hammer blows to keep their costly nylon nets intact."

Another reports that despite a ban on fishing along Orissa coast, a large number of rare Olive Ridley Turtles were killed and their carcasses found scattered on the beaches from Chilika lake to Paradip port. While conservation groups claimed that at least 12,000 turtles were killed from November 2007 till date, the state government put the figure at 5,000.

According to Greenpeace, over 4,000 carcasses were found in Devi region alone till February. "This is well above the average mortality figure of 2,470 recorded in the area in the last seven years".

Fewer turtles arrive for nestings
The Times of India 21 Dec 08;
PANAJI: Turtle conservation in the state has suffered a setback as only two nestings have been reported this season, one each in Morjim and Galgibaga, as forest officials try to look for reasons for the poor arrival of the flippered visitors on Goa's beaches.

"It may be due to drastic climate changes all over or disturbance on beaches frequented by them," C A Reddy, conservator of forests told TOI on Saturday.

Confirming that only two nestings had occurred during the last three months, Paresh Parab, range forest officer, Cotigao said, "We are still expecting some arrivals, but only one nesting has occurred in Galgibaga and another reported in Morjim."

The nesting season of Olive Ridley turtles spans from October to March, but half way through the season, the usual nesting spots look deserted. "Often, turtles arrive on the shore and seeing some disturbance, try to return to the sea, but nothing has been reported of such cases too" Parab said.

Turtle conservation started in 1996, thanks to efforts of environmentalists and the forest department, but it actually took off in 1997 at Morjim. Protection of three sites boosted the release of 400 hatchlings.

Later, the 2000-2001 season was regarded as one of the best with 2,567 hatchlings released from nesting sites at Galgibaga, 2,492 in Morjim, 715 in Agonda and 114 in Querim.

Last year, Agonda appeared to be a much-sought after destination as ten nestings were reported while Galgibaga had half the number. "Patrolling by locals engaged by forest department had yielded around 1,100 hatchlings in 2007-2008," Parab said.

A lone turtle had visited Talpona in 2004, but none in subsequent years. Galgibaga was also a favourable haunt for turtles as no shacks are allowed here. However, tidal action has eroded the beach and it has developed a gradient. In Morjim, the lone nesting yielded 51 hatchlings, which were recently released under supervision of local volunteers.

Poaching of eggs by locals was a common phenomenon earlier. However, sources say this has been curbed in turtle nesting sites to a great extent. "The incidence of turtles being trapped in fishing nets has also declined in recent years," Sitakant Parab, a member of a fisheries co-operative body said.

"Fishermen may have some information about their seeing congregations of turtles at sea and their mating," the Cotigao RFO said, and added, "If mating occurs, then nesting follows." Agreeing that the rest of the season could provide some clues, Reddy said, "We will have to monitor the situation during the rest of the season."
Dead turtles litter Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara
Express News Service 7 Dec 08;
KENDRAPARA: The nesting ground of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, Gahiramatha beach in Kendrapara district, is littered with 1,343 dead turtles. Another nesting site at the Devi beach in Puri district too is infested with about 2,000 dead turtles.

The authorities blame the fishing trawlers for the sorry state of affairs. The turtles get entangled in fishing trawlers and gill nets and the fishermen kill them with hammer blows to keep their costly nylon nets intact.

The carcass is then thrown into the sea, said Sudhashu Parida, secretary of the district unit of People for Animals, the organisation, which conducted the survey.

The forest and wildlife officials of the State are hoodwinking the Government and people by providing wrong figures about the dead turtles to the authorities to save their skin, alleged Parida.

About a lakh turtles had perished within a decade in Orissa and as a result the number of turtles are falling, said Parida.
Over 5,000 turtles killed in Orissa since '07
The Economic Times 20 Mar 08;
BHUBANESWAR: Despite a ban on fishing along Orissa coast, a large number of rare Olive Ridley Turtles were killed and their carcasses found scattered on the beaches from Chilika lake to Paradip port, official sources said.

While conservation groups claimed that at least 12,000 turtles were killed from November 2007 till date, the state government put the figure at 5,000.

Over two lakh turtles visit Orissa coast every year for annual nesting. They lay eggs at Gahirmatha beach, Devi region and Rusikulya river mouth.

According to international NGO, Greenpeace, over 4,000 carcasses were found in Devi region alone till February.

"This is well above the average mortality figure of 2,470 recorded in the area in the last seven years", Sanjiv Gopal, oceans campaigner of Greenpeace said.

The conservation group apprehends that turtle mortality could be more than the previous years with two months still left for completion of the nesting season of turtles.

While lauding forest department for containing turtle mortality in Rushikulya river mouth, Greenpeace alleged that it had failed in checking movement of trawlers in Devi region.

Gopal alleged that a large number of turtles were killed due to unchecked trawler movement near shore water disrupting turtle congregation leading to their death.

The claims of the conservation group were supported by the Wildlife Society of Orissa which also blamed the state government for the large scale turtle mortality in the state's coast.

Olive Ridley death riddle solved
Santosh Patnaik, The Hindu 7 Feb 08;
VISAKHAPATNAM: The death of hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles along the Paravada coast in December 2007 had occurred due to failure of the trawlers to install the mandatory turtle excluder device.

Lab tests conducted at Andhra University and Veterinary Biological Research Institute, Hyderabad ruled out the largescale death of the endangered species due to consumption of toxic contents discharged by industries located nearby or on account of rise in the seawater temperature.

“We didn’t find any abnormal pollution levels. The washing ashore of carcasses was not a localised phenomena as dead turtles were found all along the coast up to Srikakulam during the year-end – the breeding season,” P.J. Vijaykar, Divisional Forest Officer told The Hindu on Wednesday.
Entangled in nets

It was confirmed that the turtles got strangulated and drowned in the nets of the trawlers. Turtles need to come to surface once in 30 minutes for fresh air failing which they die due to suffocation.

The turtles are named as Olive Ridley as their shells are shaped like heart. The fishermen facilitate their dragging in the nets for several hours and throw them in the sea later. They are found ashore two to three days later.

Mr. Vijaykar said Visakha Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had performed the post-mortem of one of the fresh carcasses in his presence and nothing could be found as it was in a decomposed state. Later the samples of kidney, liver and lungs were sent to Hyderabad. Even the Forensic Science Lab could not find anything, he said.

Pristine beaches of Visakhapatnam attract thousands of Olive Ridleys every year. Gahirmatha beach, part of Bhittarkanika wildlife sanctuary in Orissa is known for one of the largest nesting population of sea turtles in the world.


More on Greenpeace India's Turtle Witness Camp.

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