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Published: Wednesday 15 July 1998

A high-powered committee, set-up by the Orissa government to conserve the endangered Olive Ridleys turtle, has announced a 'new action plan' to protect the turtles. Under this plan, the committee will make turtle excluder device (TED) compulsory for the trawlers. The committee took a similar decision in July last year but could not enforce it.

It is believed that the present decision is nothing but a renewal of the government's previous initiative to protect the Olive Ridleys turtle ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 2).

In 1996, the National Marine Fisheries Services of USA had transferred the technology for TED to the state government in a workshop in Paradeep, the port city of Orissa. Following this, the high-powered committee made it compulsory for the trawlers to use TED. A report appeared in International Herald Tribune had recently claimed that the device costs around US $100 and has been provided by the US free of cost to shrimp suppliers in India.

However, it seems that officials and local trawler owners in Orissa are not aware of this. A senior forest official said that TED was never promised free of cost by the US. According to the director of Project Swarajya, Chitta Behera, which is implementing a Global Environment Facility funded TED popularisation programme, the device would cost around US $ 236 and not US $100 as reported by the newspaper. It was never meant for free distribution, the report said. After the technology transfer of TED, the Project Swarajya has been identified to manufacture and sell the TEDs.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organisation has ruled that an US embargo on imports of shrimps (prawns) caught without the use of turtle excluder device violates international trade rules, according to the Fishery Survey of India.

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