Odisha: Olive Ridley turtles to reach Gahirmatha for breeding

Bhubaneswar: During the breeding season, large numbers of rare Olive Ridley turtles arrive at Gahirmatha beach for mating. Later, they scale sand slope in large numbers to lay eggs. The Odisha government has decided to impose a ban for fishing, within 20 km from specified coastal areas, from November 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022 for protecting the nests of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.

A detailed action plan was chalked out at the meeting of the state high-powered committee on conservation of Olive Ridley turtles held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary S.C. Mahapatra on Monday evening.

The Olive Ridley sea turtles come to Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district, Devi river mouth in Puri district, and Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district to lay eggs every year.

In view of this, use of motor boats, trawlers, and mechanised fishing boats will be prohibited within 20 km from the sea turtle congregation area and their buffer zones in Dhamara, Devi and Rushikulya river mouths.

A central monitoring unit would be set up in the office of the Chief Wildlife Warden, and wide awareness activities would be undertaken for the purpose, said the official.

A total of 66 patrolling camp sites including 61 onshore camps would be operated round the clock. Armed police would be deployed for patrolling and enforcement activities.

Each camp would be provided with VHF communication devices, mobile phones and required camping materials.

Additional Chief Secretary, Environment and Forests, Mona Sharma said that four wildlife divisions – Bhadrak, Rajnagar, Puri and Berhampur – are in readiness for conservation operations this year.

These divisions have been equipped with 5 high-speed boats, along with 13 trawlers and support boats for curbing illegal activities in the sea, she said.

PCCF Wildlife, Sashi Paul appraised that last year around 3.5 lakh turtles laid eggs in Gahirmatha coast. At least 38 trawlers were seized and 202 persons were arrested. Mass nesting took place at Gahirmatha between March 10 to March 24, he said.

Fisheries and Animal Resource Development Secretary R. Raghu Prasad said a mobile app has been developed for the fishermen and the officers at the ground level, and the fisherman can see the no-fishing zone in the app itself. They will also get an alert message when they enter the no-fishing area, he said.

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