Sunday, April 6, 2008
Wildlife experts and conservationists have expressed shock and serious concern over mass killing of rare Olive Ridley sea turtles in Orissa coast.

carcases of oliveridleys at devi river mouthDevi river mouth in Puri district bears a ghastly look with the thousands of carcasses of Oliveridley spreading over miles together on the coast.

According to rough estimates, over 4,000 carcasses have been recovered in the Devi Region (Chilika to Paradip) stretch alone till February 2008.

“This is well above the average mortality of 2,470 recorded in this area in the last seven seasons,” Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner Sanjiv Gopal pointed out.

According to a estimate made by the Greenpeace ,the total mortality for the entire state is likely to be in the region of 12,000 plus.

“The Orissa Government claims that it is concerned about this endangered species, and was doing all it can ,to protect the turtles. However, they are yet to equip the Department of Forests (Wildlife) with the required resources to do the job,” Gopal said.

However, Orissa Chief Wildlife Warden BK Patnaik claimed that around 600 Olive Ridley turtles have died this year.

He further claimed that the state government have taken all precautionary measures in association with the coast guards to prevent fishing by trawlers inside the prohibited areas of the Orissa coast.

Opeartion Kaschayap’s Biswahit Moahnaty and international NGOs like Greenpeace have dismissed the state government’s claim that only around 600 turtles died this season in the Devi Region.

“The Forest Department needs to involve local NGOs in the mortality monitoring, only then will this annual trading of allegations with regard to the turtle death toll cease,” Gopal said.

He further suggested that along with the transfer of resources to the department, the state government should also commit to annually depreciating turtle mortality targets as an objective way of evaluating their turtle protection efforts.

On the issue of compensation to traditional fishermen affected by turtle conservation measures at Gahirmatha, Devi and Rushikulya, the centre has assured the state of support for alternative livelihood income generation schemes.

However, the Ocean Campaigner observed that such a scheme was yet to be prepared and forwarded to the centre from the state - a reflection of the low priority of the government towards its fishermen and the turtles.

Though a number of NGOs and local committees in different coastal areas like Rushikulya river mouth were working overtime to ensure safe mass nesting of the Olive Ridley sea turtles, the high casualty at Devi river mouth has been attributed to the indiscriminate fishing on the coast.

A local fisherman said that the turtles are trapped in the nets of the fishing boat and die of suffocation. Few are also facing death after being hit by the propellers of the fishing boats.

Meanwhile, the Orissa High Court, taking cognisance of the high turtle casualties and rapping the state government for its failure to act, has asked the state government to file its response by March 28, 2008.