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Around 6 sea turtles wash up dead along East Coast Road in the past few days

Activist says the deaths may be due to the animals getting entangled in ‘ghost nets’, old nets discarded at sea

January 21, 2023 08:53 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:05 am IST - CHENNAI

Supraja Dharini, founder of TREE Foundation, says 21 turtles have died along the Chennai coast in the last few weeks.

Supraja Dharini, founder of TREE Foundation, says 21 turtles have died along the Chennai coast in the last few weeks. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Around five to six sea turtles have reportedly washed ashore dead along East Coast Road (ECR) over the past few days. Locals near the Akkarai beach on Saturday said they had spotted two dead turtles this week.

Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) president Anbumani Ramadoss on Saturday raised the alarm on turtles dying on the Akkarai coast, close to his residence. Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Anbumani complained of eateries proliferating across the beach, because of which garbage accumulates on the coast. The waste attracts stray dogs and turtle nesting has gone down in this part of the coast due to this, he said.

A small percentage of turtles dying during the nesting season is not unusual, said E. Prashanth, Wildlife Warden, Chennai. Eight turtles have died since the start of the year, and it cannot be termed a large-scale mortality, he said. “Every nesting season around 700 to 800 turtles come to beaches to nest, and up to 10 deaths is a common phenomenon,” he said.

However, Supraja Dharini, founder of TREE Foundation, said 21 turtles had died along the Chennai coast in the last few weeks. All of them, she said, could have died after getting entangled in fishing gear or ‘ghost nets’, a term used for old, unused nets discarded at sea. “In recent days, nets set for catching squid, called kadamba valai, are being used a lot and turtles get caught in these,” she said, whose organisation works with fisherfolk to remove ghost nets from the sea.

Ms. Dharini said after years of intense awareness created by TREE foundation, along with the Forest and Fisheries Department, Marine Police and the Indian Coast Guard, fishermen in Chennai and Chengalpattu are now releasing turtles and endangered marine life they find entangled in fishing gear back into the sea.

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