Fewer Olive Ridleys reach Godavari nesting site 

Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings are released at Godavari estuary in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district.

Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings are released at Godavari estuary in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Once known as a safe nesting ground on India’s east coast, a nearly 30-km long coastline in the Godavari estuary has been witnessing a sharp fall in the arrival of Olive Ridley turtles ( Lepidochelys olivacea) during the breeding season as large numbers of them are trapped by high speed fishing boats.

The entire rookery, including the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, is part of the rare and ecologically sensitive Godavari mangrove system. According to official data, 1,061 turtles arrived at the Godavari estuary in the 2018-19 breeding season (January-April), in which a record number of 89,172 hatchlings were returned to the sea. But the number of turtles arriving here started falling from the following season. In 2019-20, barely 640 turtles arrived at the estuary, and 2020-21 witnessed the lowest turnout of 471 turtles. In the ongoing season, 501 turtles have arrived so far and more are expected till mid-April.

“Mechanised boats equipped with speed engines beyond the permissible capacity are proving to be death traps for Olive Ridley turtles on the Andhra coast in recent years. The boats and their speed are the prime factors responsible for the death of the turtles along the coast,” Forest Range Officer (Wildlife-Kakinada) S.S.R. Vara Prasad told The Hindu.

“Given the alarming rate of Olive Ridley turtle deaths, we are installing CC camera surveillance systems on fishing boats to monitor fishing and ensure turtle conservation activity during the breeding season,” Mr. Vara Prasad added.

In the 2018-19 nesting season, 89,000 turtle hatchlings were released into the Bay of Bengal from here. Last year, the number of released hatchlings fell below 60,000, while in the current breeding season, so far, 7,056 hatchlings have been released into the sea from the five rookeries in the Godavari estuary — Hope Island, G.K. Pora, S. Yanam, Vasalatippa, and Sacramento Island.

The five rookeries practising in-situ and ex-situ conservation methods are managed by a dedicated team of 25 fisherfolk, who collect the turtle eggs and ensure hatchlings are released into the sea. The survival rate of these turtle eggs is over 90%.

“It’s the need of the hour to declare a fishing ban or a ban on the movement of fishing boats in a potential zone to ensure the safe arrival of turtles at the breeding spots,” said D. Mahesh Babu, a research scholar associated with the Andhra Pradesh Wildlife Division, who is monitoring Olive Ridley turtle breeding in the Godavari estuary.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 6:58:30 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/fewer-nesting-olive-ridley-turtles-reach-the-godavari-estuary-safely/article65262728.ece