KENDRAPARA: MASS nesting of Olive Ridleys has started on the tranquil beach of Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary, the world’s largest rookery of sea turtles. Forest range officer of the sanctuary Subrata Kumar Patra informed that nearly 1.31 lakh Olive Ridley turtles came ashore for mass nesting at Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands on Wednesday and Thursday. The Olive Ridleys arrived on Gahiramatha beach for nesting in groups, each consisting of 2,000 to 5,000 turtles. The islands, which stretch for only 6 km and are surrounded by sea, are proper for nesting of the turtles since there is no threat of predators and human interference. The nesting would continue for a week, said Patra.
He further informed that 50 forest personnel have been engaged to guard the beach and sea to protect the turtles and their eggs. The State Government has imposed a ban on fishing inside Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary, 35 km from Hukitola to Dhamara and 20 km off the shore, from November 1 last year to May 31 to facilitate smooth nesting of the turtles. “So far, we have arrested around 380 persons and seized 75 boats and trawlers within Gahiramatha limits on charges of illegal fishing,” said the forest officer.
The Indian Coast Guard and the Forest department have established 15 camps to guard the Olive Ridleys and prevent entry of fishing vessels into prohibited areas. Surprise raids are also carried out to prevent fishermen from straying into the turtle congregation areas, Patra said.Last year, 6.46 lakh Olive Ridleys had laid eggs on both the islands from February 22 to March 3 by breaking the nesting record of the last 16 years.
Last week, around four lakh turtles laid eggs on Rushikulya beach in Ganjam district. Environmentalist and president of Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society (MTMCS) of Kendrapara Hemant Rout said many Olive Ridleys are laying eggs in pits dug by other turtles. In the process, thousands of eggs are being destroyed by female turtles. As the beach is now packed with thousands of turtles, there is little space for laying eggs. Many turtles are returning to the sea and will emerge after a few days for laying eggs on the beach, he said.