KARWAR: The unusual sighting of Olive Ridley turtles on the west coast of late has puzzled marine experts, who say that it is not the season for these turtles to be found on shore. Only on Sunday, local fishermen and the Uttara Kannada Forest Department rescued an Olive Ridley in Bhatkal. On the same day, another turtle was rescued by fishermen in Karwar. The Olive Ridleys, considered rare, are more commonly seen on the east coast during daytime than on the west coast.
The spotting of the Olive Ridleys has stirred a debate among marine biologists. “They migrate to the sea shores only after the monsoon ends — they come in December and breed up to May. But the finding of Olive Ridleys during the peak of the monsoon is a big puzzle,” remarked Prakash Mesta, a marine biologist here.
The one found on Tagore beach in Karwar had its forelimbs injured. It was rescued by fishermen and then released into the waters. Another turtle was rescued jointly by fishermen and the forest staff of Bhatkal. With its shell cracked, the turtle was in the care of the Forest Department. “Maybe it was struck by the rotor of a boat. It was doing fine, but it died after a couple of days,” Savitha Devadiga, Range Forest Officer, Bhatkal, told Express. “It even had food when we tried to feed it,” she pointed out.
Shivakumar Haragi, Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Biology, Karnataka University, Dharwad, is of the opinion that they might have got caught in fishing nets. “They get entangled in the nets are dragged for hours during fishing. The turtle is under severe pressure. It will be unable to swim and breathe. Once released, such turtles end up on the shores as they lose orientation (movement path). This might turn fatal to these species,” he noted.
Fishermen on the east coast use fishing nets which have a Turtle Excluding Device (TED). When turtles get caught in the net, they can escape through the TED. But there are no such regulations on the west coast. Fishermen consider the sighting of Olive Ridleys as a good omen as they believe that there will be good catch of fish.