Odisha gears up to Protect and Conserve Olive Ridley Turtles

Bhubanewar: Odisha is home to 50 percent Olive Ridley turtles in the world. In order to protect and conserve this turtle population the State government keeps taking adequate measures towards the conservation and protection. Odisha chief secretary J K Mohapatra held a review meeting to explore the possibilities to involve the local communities, community based organizations and NGOs in the conservation and protection activities of these sea turtles.

The government also plans for eco-tourism activities during the nesting season in selected sites. Chief secretary Mohapatra has also advised the department to explore possibilities of webcasting those mass nesting scenes which are ethical and aesthetic in the perspective of wildlife protection and promotion of eco-tourism. It is felt that webcasting of this rare scenes of nesting in natural habitat will attract more tourists and wildlife enthusiasts.

Steps have begun for the sea turtle protection and conservation operation for the coming mass nesting season in Odisha from November, 2013. And since Odisha houses 50 percent of total world population of the olive ridleys and around 90 percent of Indian sea turtles population adequate precautions were under taken during last nesting season ensuring undisturbed nesting activities of turtles. According to official sources, around 48 on-shore camps and 6 off-shore camps were established at strategic locations. 580 sorties and 580 days of sea patrolling had been undertaken by Forest & Environment Department. Besides, 53 joint sorties and 53 days sea patrolling were conducted by Fisheries department.

During this period a total of 63 fishing vessels including 33 trawler, 20 gill netter and 10 mechanized boats were seized and 56 cases registered and court trials were initiated against the offenders. Hoardings were installed at 16 fishing bases and massive awareness campaign was undertaken in the locality.

Sources added that due to protective measures undertaken during the nesting seasons the number of mass nesting of Olive Ridley turtles in Odisha coast has increased constantly over the years from 35,000 in the year 2002 to 4,65,000 in the year 2006 with upward increase to 5,13,000 in the year 2010. And during the year 2011 recorded sudden rise of nesting to the level of 7,24,000. Records also suggest that the Olive Ridley causalities in Odisha coast has declined over the years from 12,997 recorded causalities in 2002 to 5,003 causalities in 2010 and 2,717 in the year 2013.

This year the State government plans to further strengthen the protective measures for the coming nesting season of 2013-14. Chief Secretary has directed to make Ariel surveillance of the movement of the turtles and give advance information to the authorities so that the coast guards and joint patrolling teams take extra caution to protect them. It has been decided to hold 50 on-shore and 6 off-shore patrolling camps by December 2013. Each camp will be manned by Forest Staff and daily wage workers from the local community. Additional camp personnel as per the provisions of ICZM project shall also be posted. Babubali, Agarnasi, new Devi Nasi island , Purunabanda and some other identified locations shall be the bases for going in to the sea on patrol. Each camp will be equipped with VHF communication facilities, mobile phones and required camping material. The Regional Chief conservator of Forests Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Baripada will monitor the activities at the circle level. The NGOs, community based organisations will be involved in good numbers in creation of awareness, mobilization of fishing community, regulation of human activities at nesting places and safeguarding of the eggs. Chief Secretary has directed departments of Home, Fisheries, DRDO, Coast guard, Port Authorities of Paradeep, Gopalpur and Dhamra to be actively involved in this operation. A proposal to establish Sea Turtle Research Center has been sent by the government to the Ministry of Forest & Environment, government of India. The State government has revealed that it would go ahead with the proposal if the central government turns down the proposal.

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