Carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles were sighted floating near the Rushikulya rookery on the Orissa coast after an oil spill from a ship near the Gopalpur port.

Environmental activists suspect this to be the impact of the spill. Some 25 carcasses were reported to be floating between Prayagi and Arjipalli since Thursday. Most were two to three days old.

Around 7,000 litres of oil had spilt from the Essar-owned vessel MV Malabika on Tuesday evening when a barge hit it due to rough weather.

Buried hastily

It is suspected that suffocation or toxicity of spilt oil may have been a catalyst for the deaths.

Environmental activists have alleged that carcasses were being hastily buried by the authorities without any attempt to determine the cause of deaths.

Soumya Tripathy of the Greenpeace, who visited the Rushikulya rookery on Friday, said a toxic impact on mature Olive Ridleys in the sea near this coast and the young hatchlings that are about to come out from the nests on this mass nesting coast cannot be ruled out.

According to him, the spill can cause cutaneous toxic reactions and suffocation for marine turtles, which can cause death.

According to marine scientists, the planktons near the beach have been affected by the spill. This would affect the delicate marine food chain in the area. The first food of tender hatchlings are planktons and small sea animals.

It is feared that due to this pollution of the sea near the nesting site, the mortality among hatchlings may be quite high this year.

Even after four days, the residue of emulsified hydrocarbon was floating and getting carried to the rookery.

The port authorities had to deploy workers again to clean up the beach by collecting and segregating the sand affected.

Rabindra Sahu of the Rushikulya Marine Turtle Protection Committee said the effect of the spill would extend to the Chilka lake, connected to this region by the Palur canal.

Fish stinks of lubricants

He said the fish catch from this stretch now stinks of lubricants and salt producers of the area are worried that their produce too may get affected.