Published: Sunday 28 February 1999

According to a recent survey, about 200 dead Olive Riddley turtles are washed away every day on Orissa's coasts ( Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 13). The survey was conducted by the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO). Between the coast of Paradip and Devi river mouth, nearly 6,000 dead turtles were counted. WSO secretary Biswajit Mohanty blamed fishing trawlers and fishing boats for the turtles' deaths. He alleged that the state's fisheries department was not bothered about the turtles.

The government had declared the 20 km area into the sea between Chandbali and Hukitollah a marine sanctuary and banned the entry of fish trawlers. It appears to have had a little impact on containing turtle mortality, said Mohanty. He informed that the turtles had assembled in the coastal waters for mating in November and December and the causality rate had remained low. But in January it had climbed alarmingly, he said. If the trend continues, it will result in an environmental castastrope, said Mohanty.

Orissa High Court on February 2 had adjourned the hearing of court's earlier order concerning protection of sea turtles in the coast. The WSO secretary had filed a public interest writ petition in court saying that about 50,000 turtles had earlier died on the coast in 1998, owing to government's negligence. In May, 1998, the court had directed that trawlers would have to use turtle excluder device to ensure that turtles caught in the net did not die. In an earlier order the Orissa High Court had directed the state government to implement section 21 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (proclamation by the district collector specifying situation and limits of the sanctuary), and set up a high level committee for protection of sea turtles. Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district is known to be the world's largest breeding ground for the Olive Ridley's.

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