Ridleys in danger

Their young ones may not find food near shore

By Ashutosh Mishra
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

an oil spill near the Gopalpur port in Orissa on April 12 has triggered concern over the safety of Olive Ridley turtles. The mishap occurred 17 km from the Rushikulya river mouth, one of the main nesting grounds of the endangered turtles.

The oil slick may have killed marine organisms like jelly fish that constitute turtle food, said Biswajit Mohanty, the coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, a turtle protection initiative. “When the hatchlings emerge from the eggs and make their way to the sea, they may find themselves facing a food crisis,” he added.

This year turtles have laid an estimated 150,000 eggs that will start hatching from April-end.

The oil spilled when the ship, M V Malavika, was unloading coal on to a barge two kilometres off port. The barge hit the ship’s fuel tank, spilling seven tonnes of furnace oil. Gopalpur port director, Manmohan Moharana, said the damage was contained quickly as the remaining oil was shifted to other tanks in the ship within an hour. The oil contaminated the sea shore; the sand had to be scraped and disposed in landfills.

The area’s divisional forest officer Ajay Kumar Jena said the nesting beaches are on high ground and there is no danger to the Olive Ridleys. He said damage to marine life was minimal.

But fishers living in eight villages close to the Rushikulya river mouth have said they are returning empty handed as the fish have disappeared, said K Alleya, secretary of Orissa Traditional Fish Workers Union.

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