The Hindu , 06 February 2006

Olive Ridleys fall prey to trawlers

CHENNAI: There has been a sharp rise in the number of Olive Ridley Turtles falling victim to trawlers.

At least 50 turtles were found dead and several others washed ashore with injuries along the coastline from Besant Nagar to Kanathur. This year, the casualty went up owing to an increase in the number of trawlers fishing in shallow waters, Wildlife authorities said.

After the tsunami last year, trawlers stayed away from the sea till the egg-laying season got over in March.

However, poaching has come down, according to officials and conservationists. Ashish Kumar Srivastava, Wildlife Warden, Chennai, attributed this to the posting of turtle guards from Besant Nagar to Kanathur. Youths from seven fishing villages were identified and employed by the Forest department as temporary guards.

Supraja Dharini of TREE Foundation, an NGO involved in sea turtle Conservation, said increased awareness among fishermen helped in reducing poaching of turtle eggs.

Wildlife authorities suggest that a a turtle-excluding device be attached to the net, Mr. Ashish said.

Door-to-door campaign

Dr. Supraja suggested a door-to-door campaign urging residents in beachfront houses to switch off lights at night to attract more turtles to lay eggs without disturbance. Thirty residents in beachfront houses in the stretch between Periya Neelankarai and Kanathur have been contacted.

Five volunteers from Kadal Aamai Padhukavalargal Sangam were posted as `Turtle Guards' by the Forest department. A total of 47 nesting sites were identified along the Chennai coastline (from Besant Nagar to Kanathur), Mr. Ashish said.

The guards removed the eggs and took them to hatcheries. They collected over 5,500 eggs this season. The guards were also trained in maintaining records of each nest.

Information on the number of eggs, the size of the hatchery and the date of laying eggs were recorded.