With the nesting season of the Olive Ridley sea turtle expected to begin soon, two turtle carcasses have been found washed ashore in a matter of just three days. This marks the beginning of that part of the year when around 100 turtles usually wash up dead on Chennai’s beaches.
The two carcasses were found in a short stretch; one was found on Saturday near the Urur fishing hamlet adjacent to Elliot’s Beach, the other was found on Monday at Thiruvanmiyur. The Urur carcass was that of a full grown female and the Thiruvanmiyur carcass was that of a male sub-adult. The carcases were fund in a bloated state, indicating that they had drowned.
The two carcasses serve as proof of the Fisheries Department’s failure to effectively enforce mandatory use of Turtle Excluder Devices and the ban on the use of closely-woven gill nets by trawl fishing boats.
Sea turtles cannot breathe under water, and have to surface now and then for air. They usually drown after getting tangled in the nets of fishing boats. Turtle Excluder Devices are contraptions that create an escape route for the trapped turtle without letting too many fish escape from the net. Their use has seen a drop in sea turtle fatalities of over 90 percent in most parts of the world.
But the enforcement has been close to non-existent in Tamil Nadu. Officials of the Wildlife Wing of the Forest Department have often expressed their inability in getting the Fisheries Department to enforce the regulations.
The turtles usually do not come close to shore except during the nesting season. As they start heading closer to the coast in December, turtle carcasses start washing ashore on Chennai’s beaches, making it a bittersweet time for volunteer groups working to conserve the turtles.