The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) was set up in July 2013 to try to understand the phenomenon of olive ridley turtles drifting to the Maldivian coast after being trapped in ghost nets. The project investigates the origin of these ghost nets and gathers information on fishing techniques used by fisheries in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, based on information gathered from a concerned community.
While the ORP initially relied on Facebook and Twitter to disseminate information, it now makes use of a comprehensive website that is still being improved.
The website presents the context of the project and provides information on olive ridley turtles in the region. The species (Lepidochelys olivacea) is particularly rare in the Maldives and is being encountered mainly entangled in discarded fishing nets. The aims and rationale of the project are also detailed, namely to actively target the origin of ghost nets using information gathered from a concerned community. Useful information on several types of ghost nets – that is to say, nets that have been discarded, abandoned or lost in the ocean – and on their impacts on marine turtles is also provided. Furthermore, a section of the website presents an overview of operations conducted and information gathered at the three sites.
Since the inception of the Olive Ridley Project in July 2013, 21 turtles have already been found injured by ghost nets. The website serves as a tool for individuals to contribute to the collection of valuable information. Clear guidelines are given on what to do upon finding a net or an injured turtle, as well as guidance on taking a useful photograph. The site gives a list of information that should be recorded, summarized in a downloadable Excel form that can be filled in. This information includes details of recorder, date of the finding, detailed net measurements and characteristics (material, direction of twist, type of knot, etc.), and presence of a turtle. An email address is also provided for information to be sent informally by anyone. Although data contributors are encouraged to provide details of measurements of any turtle that was found entangled or injured, sending a picture with information on the location of retrieval is already important for the development of the project.
The Olive Ridley Project has so far been collecting data from PhD candidates working with fisheries, as well as from various members of local communities in the area, including snorkelers and divers. More information is needed to reach the longer-term objective of showing nesting activity in the region and to better assess the severity of the ghost net issue. In due course, this may encourage a change in fishing techniques and legislation, and incentives to look for sustainable alternatives.
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For more details on the ORP, please refer to the IOSEA Feature on the Olive Ridley Project published in August 2013;
and to this informative article published on the Sea Turtle Conservancy website.