Olive Ridley Turtles in Danger in Odisha

Odisha has been witnessing the deaths of the Olive Ridley turtles on the eastern coastline due to the continuous movements of trawlers and fishing boats in the prohibited regions. 

On the other hand, the state is celebrating and preparing for the Hockey World Cup as the host for the second time in a row, the mascot ‘Olly’, the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, is in a hazardous condition, which is a matter of serious concern for all.

Olly has captured the interest and imagination of residents of the state over the years. It has long been a kid’s favorite.

This rare species of sea turtle is known for its annual mass nesting and gathering in their thousands on the coastline of Odisha during the rise in temperature on the Rushikulya river.

But whatever the reason for this situation, the ‘Olly’ is on the edge of declining and need to be seriously taken.

Other than the Rushikulya river, there are other 2 sites recorded for mass nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles in India’s Gahirmatha and Devi river mouths.

Odisha presently has two active mass nesting locations because the Devi region has sadly not seen any mass nesting for more than ten years.

Odisha has an east coastline of 480km. Four species of sea turtles have been recorded from this area: Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Green, and Leatherback. But among these four species, only Olive Ridley has been reportedly seen nesting in the region. 

Inpending Crisis

Nothing seems to be in order in the state to safeguard Olive Ridley turtles, even with the creation of regulations and ongoing awareness initiatives. According to authorities, the renowned Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, which is known as the nursery of the endangered species, is experiencing an increase in Olive Ridley turtle deaths.

Members of Voluntary outfits found 20 turtles dead at the marine sanctuary and then buried them. As per the experts, the reason for the deaths of these turtles is found to be the continuous movements of the trawlers and fishing boats in prohibited regions.

Key Reasons

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These turtles when coming to shore while swimming for mating are being hit by these trawlers and fishing boats causing their deaths. As a result to that, the marine sanctuary has turned into a cemetery for the turtles. 

The Devi, Dhamra, and Rushikulya river mouths have all been subject to a 20-kilometer fishing prohibition by the Forest department.

Steps taken by the Government

Numerous groups, including the Forest Department, have been actively engaged in the study and conservation of sea turtles in the area since the discovery of this phenomenon.

The Odisha government selected the turtle as the mascot and gave it the name “Olly” for the previous edition as well as the upcoming FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup, in a bid to popularise the Olive Ridley turtles. However, it appears that the government has little interest in putting laws in place to safeguard the turtles in real.

At least 32 fishermen were detained by forest personnel for trespassing into the forbidden Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, which is off-limits to fishers. The arrested fisherman are village inhabitants from the districts of Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, and Jagatsinghpur.

They were detained in accordance with provisions of the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act of 1982 and the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, respectively.

Sea fishing is prohibited on Odisha’s whole coastline and marine sanctuary area from November to May every year in view of the annual mass nesting of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles in Gahirmatha.

History of Olive Ridley Turtles

Since January 2021, at least 800 Olive Ridley sea turtles have perished and their remains have washed up on Odisha beaches. The distance from Silali to Nasi beach is 30 kilometers along the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and its surrounding areas.

Turtles perish when they become entangled in fishing nets. According to environmentalist and secretary of the Gahirmatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society Hemant Rout, many dead turtles had injuries that suggested they may have been caught in a trawl or gill net.

The Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act of 1982 states that trawlers must fish more than five kilometers from the coast. In the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, they are permitted to fish up to 20 kilometers inland. But they fish close to the coast in violation of the law. As a result, turtles get trapped in trawl nets and perish.

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