CUTTACK: The committee constituted to formulate measures for protection of Olive Ridley turtles and their habitats on Monday sought the Orissa High Court’s direction against allowing interim release of trawlers and boats seized for fishing during the turtle nesting season in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.
In a report submitted in the Court on Monday, the Committee attributed the mortality of the Olive Ridleys along the Odisha coast to trawling operations in the sea. The turtles are killed due to suffocation in fishing nets of trawlers or by injury inflicted by the propellers of the trawler.
The committee stated in its report that upon release, the trawlers and boats commit similar offences again during the season. “The High Court is requested to issue directives prohibiting interim release till the end of the turtle season. Trawlers of repeated offenders may not be given interim release till finalisation of the case”, it added.The High Court had on May 14, 1998 directed that all trawlers operating in the area shall be required to use Turtle Excluder Device (TED) to avoid entanglement of sea turtles. “However, the fact remains that the TEDs have been used more as an exception than as a rule during the last two decades as the fishermen do not accept the device due to high catch loss. They can easily be deactivated even after they are installed. It is therefore also very difficult to enforce the use of this device. Given these challenges, there may be little to be gained by promoting their use at this juncture”, the committee observed.
The committee had visited the nesting sites at Gahirmatha and Rushikulya Estuary and on basis of official reports, estimated that the current mortality continues at the rate of about 4,000 to 7,000 per year with more than 60-70 per cent of the mortality coming from another major nesting site - Devi Estuary.The panel sought three more months time to visit the Devi Estuary and the adjoining areas to ascertain the exact cause of high mortality in that area, compared to other areas and to come up with long term solutions for preventing the mortality. As short term measures, the report said enforcement should be focused on areas where turtle nesting congregations actually occur, enhancement of enforcement activities movement and fishing by trawlers in the prohibited area of Devi river mouth and clear demarcation of no fishing zones.