Wildlife & Biodiversity

DTE Impact: Install transponders in all fishing vehicles to save Olive Ridleys in Odisha, says HC

A survey found nearly 800 dead sea turtles on the Odisha coast, DTE reported February 4

 
By Ashis Senapati
Published: Tuesday 16 March 2021
DTE Impact: Install transponders in all fishing vehicles to save Olive Ridleys in Odisha, says HC
Coast Guard personnel with an Oilve Ridley turtle seized from a trawler at Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati Coast Guard personnel with an Oilve Ridley turtle seized from a trawler at Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati

The Orissa High Court directed the state government March 16, 2021 to install transponders in all mechanised fishing vessels to track their movements and save Olive Ridley sea turtles from fishing nets.

The high court also asked the Government of India to extend its cooperation in the matter.

The court directed that the following measures suggested in the report of the panel constituted to look into the issue should be immediately put in place by the state: 

  1. The prohibition of fishing activities by trawlers in the area of the Devi river mouth (Keluni Muhan to New Devi Nasi Island North) according to the November 12, 2014 notification of the fisheries and animal resources department should be strictly enforced, with the help of the three marine police stations within the jurisdiction of Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary, namely, Talachua, Tantiapal and Jamboo.
  2. The Coast Guard must enforce the ban stringently in association with forest and environment Department. The Government of India will also co-operate in this effort.
  3. The three police stations should be immediately provided with sea-going patrol boats, with an additional force for protection of the sanctuary through joint patrolling with the forest department to ensure that no trawler enters the sanctuary area.
  4. No-fishing zones should be clearly demarcated.
  5. The nesting beach at Gahiramatha should be fenced up at the landward side at the end of the beach with temporary wire mesh over a length of three kilometres to protect the nesting Olive Ridleys, eggs and hatchings from predators like feral dogs, wild pigs, jackals and hyenas.
  6. The existing temporary fencing at Gogharkuda Purunabandha beach be strengthened likewise.
  7. The boundary of Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary, with its geo-coordinates, should be uploaded in GSP systems of all fishing boats by the fisheries and animal resources department so that their movement in the sea can be clearly recorded.
  8. The state government will initiate a discussion with the Indian Space Research Organisation on the feasibility of installing transponders in all mechanized fishing vessels and trawlers to enable their being tracked in the sea. The Committee has informed the Court that this has already been done in Tamil Nadu. The Union of India will extend its cooperation in this matter.

The court’s action followed a February 4 report in Down to Earth that 800 Olive Ridley turtles had died since January this year due to negligence of the state’s forest and fisheries department.

The court took suo motu cognisance of the report February 23 and registered a case. It constituted a three-member panel February 26 comprising of Kartik Shankar, a sea turtle researcher of the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, Sushant Nanda, director (environment) of the state forest administration and advocate Mohit Agarwal.

All three members of the panel interacted with fisherfolk, locals, forest and fisheries officials March 6. The panel submitted its report to the high court March 15.

A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice BP Routray issued directions to ensure the safety of endangered Olive Ridley turtles and curb their mortality rate after hearing from Mohit Agarwal, the amicus curiae and PK Muduli, the additional government advocate for the state.

More than 60-70 per cent of the Olive Ridley mortalities between 2010-11 and 2019-20 had happened in the Devi estuary alone, according to figures furnished by the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife).

The current estimated mortality was 4,000-7,000 Olive Ridley Sea turtles per year. Most turtle mortality along the Odisha coast was mainly due to trawling operations, according to the report submitted by the panel.

There was also incidental killing of turtles due to suffocation in fishing nets of trawlers or by injuries inflicted by the propellers of the trawlers.

The court posted the next date of hearing April 29.

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