Nagapattinam: Rise in Olive Ridley turtle deaths sets off alarm bells

In what has been a disturbing incident, over 150 carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles have been washed ashore in the last four weeks in Nagapattinam district.

Published: 12th January 2022 05:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th January 2022 05:24 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NAGAPATTINAM: In what has been a disturbing incident, over 150 carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles have been washed ashore in the last four weeks in Nagapattinam district. The number has increased five times compared to the previous year, ie., in 2021, with 30 deaths recorded from January 4 to 26.  

The turtles were found along the shores of villages such as Periyakuthagai, Pushpavanam, Arukatuthurai, Maniantheevu and Kodiayakarai near the waters of Palk Strait, where fishers fancy for more catch.  The mounting deaths have once again pointed out to the prevalent destructive fishing practices that often evade checks, low levels of awareness among fishers, and administration’s apathy towards conservation.  

One of the major reasons of turtle deaths is asphyxiation, say experts. They are air-breathing animals, which when caught in the nets, find it extremely difficult to surface. They also most often get hit by propellers of mechanized and motorized boats and die. However, Forest department officials are concerned about dredging undertaken at Arukatuthurai fishing harbor as they say that the displacement of sand caused by dredging allegedly obstructs the swimming path of Olive Ridley turtles towards the shore. 

Stressing the need for conserving Olive Ridley turtles, Dr Supraja Dharini, a mariner conservationist and the chairman of Tree Foundation, said, “The Olive Ridley turtles play an important role in maintaining ecological balance and biodiversity in the ocean. The government should ensure that endangered species are protected. The Fisheries Department must do a ground check on the fishing practices. The law enforcement agencies like the Marine Police and Coast Guard should also be roped in to keep destructive fishing practices in check.”

Site fidelity 
Site fidelity or ‘philopatry’ is a tendency of an organism to stick and return to its natural habitat. The turtles swim to the shore of the eastern coast to nest from December to March months. There are three forest ranges in integrated coastal delta districts, namely Sirkazhi, Nagapattinam and Vedaranyam. Vedaranyam collects the least number of Olive Ridley turtle eggs. The mounting deaths have hurt the chances of improving its egg collection. 

Action taken so far
An official from the Fisheries Department said they were conducting awareness meetings among fisherfolk about the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles and advised them not to fish within a range of five nautical miles from the shore and during nights. Yogesh Kumar Meena, District Forest Officer, said, “We have advised the fishers not to use destructive nets closer to the shore. We will take strict penal action in the upcoming weeks if the fishers do not mend their ways.”

India Matters


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