Himalayan News Service

Buubaneswar, March 27:

The famous nesting sites of endangered Olive Ridley turtles in Orissa have virtually turned into their graveyards, with the reported killing of 3,000 turtles this season by fishing boats and trawlers.The state has three beaches —Devi, Gahirmatha and Rusikulya river — where the turtles nest every year during winter.

More than 700 egg-bearing female turtles have died after being snared in the nets of fishing boats at a 15-km beach in eastern India stretching from the Kadua river mouth to the Devi river mouth during the last few days, a conservation group said."These females were about to nest in a few days at this beach," Biswajit Mohanty, coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, said.

Orissa is known the world over as the biggest nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles. For want of enforcement of fishing laws, hundreds of trawlers and boats continue to fish within prohibited zones and a 20-km "no fishing zone" at the Devi river mouth and the Rushikulya river mouth, killing turtles every day.Patrolling at the Devi river mouth has come to a standstill over the past few weeks due to non-availability of funds for buying fuel for the trawler of the fisheries department.

An extremely high rate of casualties occurred in March at the Devi river mouth with many dead turtles being washed up on the beach during the past three weeks. On March 22, observers of Operation Kachhapa counted 591 dead turtles at the Devi river mouth, Mohanty said.The next day, an estimated 6,155 dead turtles were counted on the Orissa coast from the Bahuda river mouth to the Dhamra river mouth in the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary. During the past 11 years, over 110,000 turtles are believed to have been killed on the Orissa coast due to large-scale illegal mechanised fishing. The Olive Ridley turtle is highly endangered and is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.