NAGAPATTINAM: The nesting season of Olive Ridley turtles has begun in the district. At least 80 eggs have been collected in the last week and kept in a hatchery in Arukatuthurai.
"We have started collecting eggs as soon as we get reports of laying. We hope collection of more number of eggs," said S Kalanithi, District Forest Ranger of Nagapattinam. Nagapattinam has the longest coastal length in the State, running up to over 187 kilometres, and is expected to top in the release of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings.
Experts say that the arrival of turtles has been delayed this year and the nesting season commenced late compared to the previous year. The arrival is usually seen as early as November.
The delay has been attributed to a change in climatic conditions - continuous downpour and natural disasters over the years. The district saw one of the longest rainy seasons in 2019 after Gaja Cyclone last year.
"The beauty of Olive Ridley turtles is that they come to lay eggs in the places where they were born several years ago. However, their arrival often gets delayed by environmental and climatic factors and they are made to wait until they find the right temperature for its arrival," said A Velvizhi, Head of MSSRF 'Fish for All' - Research and Training Centre in Poompuhar.
Five more hatcheries were newly built this year in Kodiyakarai, Arkatuthurai, Vizhunthamavadi, Kameshwaram, and Samanthampettai. This is in addition to the existing three hatcheries in Pazhaiyar, Vanagiri, and Kottaimedu.
Protection of eggs from human interferences, safeguarding from predatory animals, and conserving them continues to remain a challenge. It is to recall that at least 150 turtles were beached in Samanthampettai, Akkaraipettai, and Nagore shores in two months during the previous year's nesting season and most of them were caught in trawl nets or hit by propellers of mechanized boats.
"The forest and fisheries department must ensure that fishers do not fish within five nautical miles nor use ray nets (Thirukkai Valai). They can use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in the trawl nets to help the turtles escape the nets," said Dr Supraja Dharini, Coordinator of Tree Foundation, which studies Olive Ridley turtles for around 19 years.
In 2018-19, a total of 25,000 turtle hatchlings were released into the sea in three forest ranges - Sirkazhi range (15,000 hatchlings), Nagapattinam range (4,900 hatchlings), and Vedaranyam range (4,700 hatchlings).
Also See: Meet Dr Supraja Dharini who has dedicated her entire life to sea turtle conservation