As many as 156 Olive Ridley turtles have been found dead along the 120 km coastal stretch of Marina to Marakkanam in the last 10 days (1-10 January). While 104 of them were found dead between Neelankarai and Marakkanam, 52 perished on the Chennai coastline from Neelankarai to Napier Bridge, activists say.
Off late, the deaths have seen an alarming rise, with 30 of them found dead in the Chennai coastline in the last two days (9-10 January).
Tree Foundation’s Supraja Dharini, who is working with Fisheries department and Chief Wildlife Warden in the stretch between Neelankarai to Marakkanam said that they have found carcasses of 104 turtles, and it’s an alarming figure. “This is just the beginning of the nesting season, which lasts till March. Turtles are important in the marine ecosystem and their numbers should not dwindle,” said Supraja.
Last year (2013), 198 sea turtles died in the stretch during the nesting season. She said that fisheries department has written 650 letters to the village heads in Tamil Nadu on conserving turtles, including cutting of the net to let them escape.
R Nishanth, a volunteer of Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network, which is also being supported by the state forest department, said that they found 30 carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles during a two-day walk between Neelankarai and Napier Bridge.
Akhila Balu, coordinator of Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network said they have till now found 52 carcasses of turtles between Neelankarai to Napier Bridge in 10 days.
The Olive Ridley turtles is recognized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list.
The turtles are usually found in the coast of Chennai between January to March as it is their nesting season. Nishanth and Akhila warn that unless measures like implementing the turtle excluder device or TED, a specialized device that allows a captured sea turtle to escape when caught in a fisherman’s net, are not carried out, the species could become extinct.
According to activists, the fisheries department has been slow in preparation for the nesting season this year. Fisheries officials could not be reached.