327 Olive Ridley turtles found dead

Chennai’s 14-km coastline has become the death bed of 288 Olive Ridley turtles during the last 45 days. According to the records maintained by the Forest Department, Chennai, The total number of dead turtles in Marina stretch was 117 and from Neelangarai to Besant Nagar was 171. This was the highest as compared to the previous years.

A total of 108 dead turtles were found and marked in the Neelangarai to Adyar estuary stretch in January 2015, and about 72 dead turtles were in the Marina stretch in January. There were 45 dead turtles in the Marina stretch up to February 18 and 63 in the Neelangarai to Adyar estuary stretch during the same period.

“This year, the death toll has been very high,” said Dr S. Davidraj, forest range officer, Chennai. “Oliver Ridley turtles, jelly fish and other small fish are interdependent. If the turtle population decreases, then the fish will decrease,” he added.

Since fishermen use mechanical boats , they have been instructed to go beyond three nautical miles and carry out fishing. There is a lot of turtle movement within three nautical miles and thus if fishing is done in this area, there are very high chances of turtles getting caught in the net fishermen use. “We have requested the fishermen to use Turtle Excluded Device. This device is quite cheap and once attached to the net, will free the turtles, if caught,” he said.

As per the report on turtle conservation for 2014–15 up to January 2015, in Kancheepuram, the number of permanent hatcheries along the 57-km coastline was nil. However, the number of eggs collected was 200. Around 65 people participated in awareness campaign among fishermen and 120 participated in awareness camps involving any fishermen college students.

“People are aware of the facts. In the next two years, we expect the fishermen to practice the same regularly. As a forest range officer, I request the fishermen community to have concern for sea turtles. They need to understand their importance,” said Dr S. Davidraj. It is worth noting that as per the stranding data of dead turtles, 2013–14 had a record of 423. Nellore mass stranding in February 2014 alone was 857 and Vellore estuary stranding as per March 2014 was 1200.