Odisha's Ridley Concern: Government directs departments to protect Sea Turtles
"An official release from the Odisha Government says that Odishan coasts get about 50% of the world population of Olive Ridley turtles, making about 90% of the marine turtle population in India, during the annual mating and nesting season. The release also says that the estimated population of Olive Ridley turtles visiting the coasts of Odisha during the breeding season shows constant growth over the last decade."
Odisha, being the only maritime state in India with several arribada (annual mass gathering for nesting) ground, continues to attract massive number of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles to its coasts for mating and mass nesting. Odisha Government is all set to provide protection to the visiting marine turtles and committed for conservation of this treasure of the Nature. A high level meeting chaired by Odisha’s Development Commissioner and Additional Chief Secretary R N Senapati in the state secretariat and joined by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life) J D Sharma outlined conservation and protection action plan for the current season, 2012-13.
The stretch of beach between Ekakulanasi and Gahiramatha coasts of Bhitarkanika in Odisha also known to be the largest rookery of Olive Ridley marine turtles in the world.
While the sandy beach on the mouths of river Rusikulya in Ganjam district and river Devi in Puri district also attract marine turtles for mass nesting, sporadic nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles also take place along the sand spits on the river mouths of Subarnarekha, Budhabalanga, Dhamara, Maipura, Baunshagarh, Hansua, Gobari, Kushabhadra, Kadua and Prachi.
An official release from the Odisha Government says that Odishan coasts get about 50% of the world population of Olive Ridley turtles, making about 90% of the marine turtle population in India, during the annual mating and nesting season. The release also says that the estimated population of Olive Ridley turtles visiting the coasts of Odisha during the breeding season shows constant growth over the last decade. In 2002-03 their number in Gahiramatha and Rusikulya was estimated 2.81 lakhs which grew up to 4.65 lakhs in 2005-06 and 5.13 lakhs in 2009-10. The year 2010-11 recorded a sudden growth up to 7.24 lakhs because of two time mass nesting in Gahiramatha during that year. In 2011-12, the number was estimated to be 5.69 lakhs.
However, while the high turtle mortality rate has been the primary concern of turtle conservationists and wildlife lovers, the release says, “because of protection measures taken by the Government in coordination with local people and voluntary organizations, there has been a sharp decline in sea turtle causalities over last decade. While, in 2001-02, the number of causalities recorded was 12977, it came down to 3242 in 2005-06 and 3173 in 2010-11. The number of causalities recorded last year, in 2011-12, was 2,382."
As the season for annual visit of the turtles has already started and turtles have started appearing in the coastal seas of Odisha, their protection has become a concern of the Odisha Government. In order to provide protection to the turtles more effectively, it has been decided in the meeting that all coastal forest divisions, wild life head quarters, marine police stations, fishery department and coast guard must work shoulder to shoulder. “The sea patrolling and night patrolling is to be intensified throughout the season. The mass nesting places are to be protected with fencing and night watch facilities are to be extended to save the turtles and their eggs from attack of dogs and other scavenging animals,” said the official release adding that “In the meanwhile Home Department has deployed 6 sections of APR Force to respective coastal forest divisions of Bhadrakh, Kendrapara (Rajnagar Division), Puri (Puri Wild Life Division) and Ganjam (Berhampur Forest Division) districts. The concerned district collectors have been asked to depute Magistrates as and when required. It has also been decided that Marine Police stations along the coast are to depute their speed boats for joint patrolling with concerned forest division officials.”
While the joint sea sorties are asked to cover all sea turtle congregation areas of Gahiramatha, Devi and Rusikulya, Fisheries department has already issued notification for prohibition of Trawl Fishing within 20 km of the nesting coast with effect from November 1, 2012, till May 31, 2013. It has also been decided in the meeting required that lightning regulations are to be followed along the nesting beaches so as to save the turtles from any distraction.