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Odisha requests WII to conduct fresh study on Olive Ridley turtle movement

Mass hatching Olive Ridley Turtles began at the Rushikulya Rookery in Ganjam district, Odisha.   | Photo Credit: Lingraj Panda

The Odisha government has requested the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to conduct a fresh study for identifying the movement of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, which would help the State renew its conservation efforts along its coast.

“Odisha’s conservation strategy for Olive Ridley turtles is one of the most successful models in the world. A decade ago, a large number of turtles used to die along the State’s coast. The turtle mortality has been drastically brought down through intra-sectoral coordination. The State now works with the Navy, the Coastguard, port and defence establishments and the fisheries department,” said K. Sivakumar, WII scientist.

“The State government is now giving emphasis on working with the community for turtle conservation. This will be experimented at the Rushikulya river mouth. We will submit a project proposal for conducting the study in one or two months,” said Mr. Sivakumar, who participated in a high level meeting chaired by State Forest and Environment Secretary Mona Sharma.

Lakhs of endangered Olive Ridley turtles congregate for mass nesting along the Odisha coast, particularly at the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river mouth annually.

The last study was conducted by WII in 2007-2010. “The WII had conducted the study to study the movement of Olive Ridley turtles in the sea so that the area can be avoided for hydrocarbon exploration. Initially, we said no to any hydrocarbon exploration offshore of Odisha,” said the scientist.

Conservation is key

“After conducting the study, we came to know the path of turtle movement. For example, turtles stay close to the coast between November and March. So during this period, any exploration activity is not permitted along 20 nautical miles off the coast. The objective of the study was to go for conservation of sea turtles while pursuing sustainable development,” he pointed out.

The earlier study had thrown up some interesting findings. “The turtles from Odisha used to go to Sri Lanka and some were going to the Andamans. We had found two major routes used by Olive Ridley turtles. However, turtles from the Sri Lankan coast were not coming to Odisha. They used to go to Maldives and some other places along the eastern coast of India,” said Mr. Sivakumar.

The WII is planning a similar study for the Maharashtra coast, which also sees turtle movement. “We are also curious to know what is happening to Olive Ridley turtles along India’s west coast and where they go. This would be the first of its kind study for the west coast,” he pointed out.

In 2019-20, as many as 7.5 lakh Olive Ridley turtles had visited the Odisha coast to lay eggs. In 2018-19, the number was estimated at 4.51 lakh. The turtle deaths were assessed at 6,988 in 2015-16. It was brought down to 3,518 in 2018-19.

In view of the beginning of the mass nesting season, the State government has directed trawler and mechanised boat operators not to fish up to 20 km from the coast. The ban will remain in force from November 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. About 10,666 fisher families will be provided ₹7,500 towards compensation for the loss of livelihood due to turtle conservation efforts.

The government will organise 61 onshore and five offshore patrolling camps for keeping a close watch on mass nesting of turtles. Environment Secretary Dr. Sharma has requested the integrated test range missile testing facility at Chandipur and the port authorities to follow turtle conservation guidelines and mask lights at night.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 11:30:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-requests-wii-to-conduct-fresh-study-on-olive-ridley-turtle-movement/article32985905.ece

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