As many as 154 Olive Ridley turtles were found dead in Nagapattinam shores in the past month (December 28 to January 27), according to Tree Foundation, an NGO engaged in sea turtle conservation. In the shores of neighbouring Puducherry, carcasses of 21 turtles were washed ashore during the same period. The 154-km coastline in Nagapattinam provides a favourable nesting habitat for Olive Ridley turtles that arrive here from December to March.
The Tree Foundationhas linked up with all 32 fishing villages of the district for field alerts on sightings of dead turtles. According to its data, from December 28 to January 27, there have been 154 dead turtles and 1 dead dolphin and most were found along the coast of Tharangambadi.
Supraja Dharini, founder, Tree Foundation, says there were over 100 dead turtles reported from Chinnamedu fishing village in Tharangambadi alone last season. “Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles that need come up every 40-45 minutes. When entangled in trawl nets, they are dragged for over 1 to 3 hours. Always, their heads are bludgeoned, flippers are chopped to remove them from the nets,” she said. Intense bottom trawling and mid-level trawling has increased the number of casualties. The increasing casualty had also forced the Fisheries Department to issue letters to all fishing villages asking them to cut the nets to free trapped turtles.
In Puducherry, forest officials located six turtle carcasses that had washed up on the beach in Narambi. They all had broken shells from being hit by boat propellers.
“Every day, the villagers call us with reports of turtle eggs and turtle carcasses and we go and recover them. The six turtles that we found on Tuesday were all buried near where they were found,” Valumani, a forester said.
Now, with the turtle hatching season in full swing along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, the number of turtle casualties in the area has also increased. “In the past month, 21 turtles were washed ashore on the beaches of Puducherry,” Deputy Conservator of Forests Satyamoorthy said.
“Unfortunately, since most are decomposed, it is impossible to do a post-mortem to ascertain the exact cause of death,” he said.
For the first time, the Forest Department has started collecting data to analyse the locations where the turtle carcasses are found and counting the number of nesting sites. Currently, there are no studies in Puducherry on the Olive Ridley turtles and their nesting sites, Mr. Satyamoorthy said.