His flippers are splayed across the gritty sand, his head is still and his shell gleams dully in the early morning light.

This Olive Ridley turtle has travelled hundreds of miles to return to the Palavakkam beach — his native shore. But the trip proved fatal for him.

Supraja Dharani of the TREE Foundation, a trust for environment education, conservation, and community development, said, “This turtle has died due to an injury on the neck from a hook used by long line fishing vessels. Most such injuries and deaths are caused due to indiscriminate fishing activities. This is the ninth death of a turtle recorded along the Chennai coast in the past week.”

“This is a common occurrence during this season,” said V. Arun, coordinator of the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network, a voluntary group that attempts to conserve and create awareness about the Olive Ridley sea turtle.

“The turtle normally inhabits the open sea but they come back to the place of birth to mate and nest. But they often get entwined in the nets of the commercial trawlers, and drown. The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to equip these trawlers with Turtle Exclusion Devices, through which the trapped animal can escape,” he added.

“These turtles are listed as endangered and protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife protection Act, yet, every year, hundreds of them are injured or killed. It is time that the fisheries department takes the responsibility and spreads awareness among all commercial fishers,” says Dr. Supraja, adding, “They are a very important part of our eco-system and need to be protected.”