CHENNAI: While the Olive Ridley turtle breeding season is barely warming up, 41 have been found dead by Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network this season. According to Shravan Krishnan, a volunteer, 15 were found dead on Monday alone.
The peak breeding season along the Chennai coast is usually in February. While conservators have found only three nests so far, it is unusual that over 40 turtles were found dead. “Last year, there were about a 100-odd nests and a 100-odd turtles. This year, we’ve spotted only three and 41 are already dead,” he added.
Activists attribute the death of turtles to the violations by fishing trawlers. A government order of 2016 said mechanised fishing is banned up to five nautical miles ( 12 km) during the nesting season (January 1 - March 31, 2017). “However trawlers don’t really obey this and the fisheries department has not paid enough attention to it,” said Akila Balu, another volunteer.
“When a dead turtle doesn’t have a major injury mark and is slightly bloated, one can easily say that the turtle was suffocated by one of the nets,” she added.
Trawling nets and gill nets are ideally supposed to have a TED (Turtle Excluder Device) fixed. It’s a small flap or an opening out of which turtles/dolphins can escape. Trawling nets in other parts of the world are mandated to have TEDs. High mortality could be prevented if these nets are mandated in the State too.
“Last year’s breeding season was slim. So we’re expecting more this year. Higher the number of nets, greater the mortality. Preventive steps have to be imposed by the government,” said Akila.