Olive Ridley turtles travel thousands of miles under the sea to reach the shore for nesting but during the journey only one out of every 1,000 baby turtles is able to survive to become an adult, while others fall prey to all sorts of marine and land predators, including humans.
Despite this, the turtles’ numbers are high, indicating the significance of this ancient gentle creature, which is the only marine wildlife species serving a strong link between the oceans and land. While traditional fishing has not done much harm, mechanised trawlers are a serious threat to the turtle population because of the nets used by them.
Threat from trawlers
In the past 10 to 15 years, trawlers have increased in numbers along the coast and their fishing practices have caused the death of thousands of non-targeted turtles that got caught and were left dead on the shore.
To prevent this, it has been made mandatory to fit detachable Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on fishing nets used in trawlers so that the harm could be minimised to a great extent. “The Fisheries Department is enforcing this. The TEDs are being given on subsidy. The small device can make a big difference in protecting turtles,” said A.V. Joseph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), AP.
Addressing a workshop on “Conservation of endangered marine species and Olive Ridley Turtles” as chief guest here on Thursday, Mr. Joseph said that over the next 10 years, new minor and major ports are coming up along the coast, which necessitates more efforts to strike a balance between growth and conservation of marine environment.
Mr. Joseph expressed concern that because of unhealthy fishing practices, dead turtles are being washed ashore and this should be stopped despite odds.
He said that TEDs were not being used on fishing nets just because 10 to 15 per cent of small fish would also escape along with turtles, but one should look at the benefits that come in terms of preservation of marine environment.
Awareness also needs to be increased among fishermen to protect Olive Ridleys when they nest on the shore. The turtle eggs are eaten by dogs, jackals, rats and other coastal predators, which could be checked only with the help of the local population.
These devices made mandatory on fishing nets used in trawlers to minimise the harm to the turtles