Wildlife & Biodiversity

DTE impact: Orissa High Court notices to officials on death of Olive Ridley turtles

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

 
By Ashis Senapati
Published: Tuesday 23 February 2021
A dead Olive Ridley turtle in Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Orissa High Court February 23, 2021 took suo motu cognisance of Down to Earth’s February 4 report on the death of around 800 Olive Ridley sea turtles due to negligence by Odisha’s forest and fisheries departments.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhara and BP Routray sought report on the matter.

Endangered marine species like the Olive Ridleys are to be protected under Scheduled 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The state’s Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is known as the world’s largest rookery of sea turtles.

The court Tuesday issued notices to and sought appearances on February 26 by:

  • Odisha’s principal secretary
  • Its principal chief conservator of forest (Wildlife)
  • The divisional forest officer for mangroves in Kendrapada’s Rajnagar
  • The director of fisheries, Cuttack
  • Additional chief secretary in forest and environment department
  • The Kendrapada district magistrate (DM)
  • Ganjam additional DM

DTE has already reported on how marine waste is dangerous for turtles, which need to swim back to the sea from rookeries. An ever-increasing debris of plastics, fishing nets, discarded nets, polythene and other garbage dumped by fishing workers is responsible for their death.  There were injury marks on many dead turtles — indicating they could have been trapped under trawls or gill nets. 

Hundreds of trawlers often violate the rule to not fish 20 kilometres within a marine sanctuary, Hemant Rout, secretary of Gahiramatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society (GMTMCS), had alleged. One of the only two patrolling boats in the area has also been defunct for six months.

Rout claimed to have spotted 800 dead turtles in a 30 kilometre stretch from Siali to Nasi along the beach. “We are happy that the Orissa High Court has taken suo motu cognizance of our survey findings reported in DTE and issued notices to the officials of forest, fisheries and district administration,” he said.

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