Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The nesting season of the Olive Ridley turtles at the Gahirmatha beach in Orissa begins in January and lasts till March. However, this year they have still not yet begun nesting. The beach is the largest nesting ground in the world ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 2).

Even though a large number of turtles were spotted off the coast, only 20 have come to the shore to lay eggs. The Orissa coast has three rookeries at the mouth of the Devi and Rushikulya rivers. It is common knowledge that fishing trawlers are responsible for killing these turtles. The turtles can stay underwater for a maximum of 30 minutes. But when they surface for air, they get entangled in the trawler nets which can be as long as five kilometres. As trawlers sweep the water for up to two hours at a stretch searching for fish -- the trapped turtles suffocate to death.

During the corresponding months in 1998, over 15,000 turtles were killed by the trawlers. A high-level committee headed by former chief minister J B Patnaik had declared the use of turtle excluder device by the trawlers compulsory.

The main reason turtles are avoiding their traditional nesting site is the presence of bright lights and other activities by the fisherfolk. Biswajeet Mohanty, secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa, says that turtles look for favourable conditions while nesting. He says that the seasonal south winds which play a crucial role during the nesting season have been delayed this year. Meanwhile, a committee set up for the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles is of the view that there has been no serious effort to determine the threat to the turtles. P M Hejmadi the committee's vice-chairperson, has urged the authorities in the coastal areas to switch off lights at night. She was speaking after the third meeting of the committee held in Bhubaneshwar. The committee has also decided to conduct a survey and identify the turtle-sensitive areas in the country.

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