Illegal fishing in Orissa kill world's smallest marine turtles

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Bhubaneshwar, Feb. 21 (ANI): Trawlers used in illegal fishing have killed hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles at Orissa's coast. Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest of the marine turtle species in the world.

About 2000 dead turtle were spotted at Devi river mouth in Puri district in Orissa, and hundreds of dead turtles have been found in other places like Rusikulya Mouth, Puri beach and Konark beach.

Every year, thousands of the Olive Ridley turtles become prey to the trawlers used in illegal fishing. Trapped in the sharp motor blades, many get ruthlessly butchered or suffocated in fishermen's gill nets.

Environmentalists allege that the killing of thousands of rare Olive Ridley turtles has become a routine, but Government has not taken any action so far.

As per the Supreme Court order and central empowerment committee guidelines, the trawlers can't undertake fishing activities within 20-kilometer radius and fishermen with small boats can't carry out fishing within five-kilometer radius of the coast.

With no patrolling from the forest department here, violation of the court is a rampant phenomenon.

"The turtles get trapped in the trawler which is used for fishing, and they die. These dead turtles float on the surface of the water and lie scattered on the shore of the river. The dogs eat the carcasses of dead turtles and in a frenzied manner bite the people in the villages. Another reason is no measures are being taken to protect the turtles. People come here and engage in trawler fishing and nobody says anything," said Kamal Lochan, a local resident.

However chief of Wild Life Warden said the Department was keeping a watch to ensure that the Olive Ridley congregation areas are kept free of the fishing activities.

"The congregation of the trawlers or the assembly of the trawlers in the remote areas has not been so much. But we are getting reports from the NGO's that there are lots of trawlers. So we are trying to get a speedboat from fishery department especially to stress on in remote areas and put our fishery people, police force and our people to have a giant patrolling in the area vigorously, so that the dead turtles will be minimized," said ijay Ketan Patnaik, chief of Wild Life Warden.

During the winter season, the endangered Olive Ridleys move in large synchronised concentrations to three major nesting sites along the Orissa coast. After the young ones are hatched, the turtles return to the sea.

The beaches of Orissa are the last nestling ground for globally distributed Olive Ridleys in the Indian Ocean. Other mass nesting sites are in Pacific Mexico and Pacific Costa Rica.

The Olive Ridley turtle, which can grow up to 75 cm in length, is found in tropical regions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.

The turtles are vulnerable because of high mortality rates. According to studies, only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings normally reaches adulthood. (ANI)

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