Odisha gears up to protect Olive Ridley turtles during mass nesting

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Bhubaneswar: With the mass nesting season of Olive Ridley sea turtles approaching, the Odisha government has geared up to ensure protection and conservation of the endangered species.

A meeting of the high power committee for protection and conservation of Olive Ridley sea turtles was held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi at the Secretariat here today.

olive ridley turtlesReviewing the steps taken so far in this direction, Chief Secretary Padhi directed the departments of Fishery, Forest and Marine police to operate in close coordination and ensure strict enforcement of the conservation rules.

The Coast Guard was requested to have real-time intelligence sharing with the departments about any illegal fishing. The institutions like Test Range, DRDO, Dhamara Port, Gopalpur Port and Paradip port authorities were requested to follow the black-out practices and light deeming to save turtles from possible delusion.

Padhi further directed the concerned departments not to cause unnecessary harassment to the small traditional fishermen without power boats and catch hold of the real criminals who cause damage to the life of turtles.

It was also decided to extend livelihood support programmes to the fishermen during the ban period under ICZM project. The committee proposed to enhance the livelihood support assistance from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,500 to each family. The meeting also resolved to cover more eligible fishermen during the current year who suffer because of the fishing ban.

The proposal for setting up one Sea Turtle Research Centre figured in the meeting.  It was decided to set up the site near Ghati Central Nursery in the Khalikote forest range of Ganjam district. Chief Secretary Padhi directed to plan the activities in the centre in such a manner that it remains vibrant throughout the year and serves as a real resource centre on sea turtle.

The proposal for instituting a research fellowship on Olive Ridley conservation was discussed in the meeting. It was also proposed to name the fellowship after late Dr. Chandrasekhar Kar, renowned expert and scientist of wildlife organization. The fellowship would be awarded for postdoctoral studies.

Presenting the updates in the meeting, PCCF, (Wildlife) Sandeep Tripathy said, “During the last year (2017-18) around 11.10 lakh Olive Ridley emerged from the sea to lay eggs along Odisha coast. Because of better coordination mechanism among the concerned departments like coast guard, naval wing, ITR, Fisheries & Animal Resource department, Police, various Port authorities, community-based organizations and forest & environment department, the sea turtle conservation and protection operation was carried on successfully.”

The meeting deliberated on Action Plan for 2018-19. It was decided that operations would start from 1st November, 2018 and would continue up to May, 2019.  Fishing by motorized vessels/trawlers and mechanized techniques would be banned within 20 kms from the specified coast of the sea comprising sea turtle congregation area and their buffer zones in 3 river moths namely Dhamara river mouth, Devi river mouth and Rusikulya river mouth.  Wide awareness activities would be undertaken for the purpose.

A central monitoring unit would be set up in the office of the PCCF. There would be circle level monitoring mechanisms under the direct supervision of Regional Conservator of Forests (RCCF), Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Baripada. They would coordinate with other law enforcing agencies and involve local NGOs in the activities.

Berthing places would be set up at Barunei, Gupti, Sasanapeta and Krushnapriyapur and Rajnagar for safe custody of the seized vessels. There would be around 62 patrolling campsites including 57 on-shore and 5 off-shore camps. Each camp would be provided with VHF communication devices, mobile phones and required camping materials.

There would be regular communication and intelligence sharing among coast guard, patrolling ship, and various camps and marine police. APR force would be deployed for patrolling and enforcement activities.  Collectors would depute magistrates to remain in charge of APR force placed at disposal of DFOs. The industries and ports along the coast were requested to comply with the lighting regulations.

Sporadic nesting activities of the turtles and their mortality would be monitored through a web portal under the title ‘manage.odishawildlife.org’. Soon after mass nesting, the rookeries would be fenced to protect the nests and eggs.  Patrolling along with watch & ward activities would be further strengthened like previous years.

Additional Chief Secretary  Forest & Environment Sri Suresh Kumar Mohapatra,  PCCF Wild Life Sri Sandeep Tripathy, Expert Member Priyambada Mohanty ( Hejmadi),  Coast Guard Commandant, Director wildlife Institute, Dehradun,  along with senior officers from concerned departments, Interim Test Range and Dhamara Paradeep and Gopalpur ports participated in discussions.

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