Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Kendrapara, Nov 8:
With the nesting season about to begin, thousands of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles have started coming ashore at Odisha’s Gahirmatha near Kendrapara. The numbers are expected to rise sharply over the next three months.
During the egg laying season, hoards of female sea turtles crawl ashore at night, dig about 1.5 ft deep flask-shaped nests in the beach and lay 100-120 eggs on an average in each clutch and then bury the eggs under the sand dunes. Hatchlings emerge around 45-60 days after the mother turtle lays the eggs.
The State Government and the Forest Department has started taking special precautionary measure including a seven-month long fishing ban from November 1 to May 31 in the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary to ensure that the nesting season passes off without high mortality rate like previous years.
The restriction has been imposed as per Odisha Marine Fishing Act (OMFA). Trawlers and fishermen have been directed not to fish within 20 km from coastline in the turtle nesting sites. Use of motor boats and mechanised trawlers for fishing within 5 km from the coast between Astarang and Baliharchandi in Puri district has also been prohibited. Besides, fishing restriction has been imposed within 20km from Devi river mouth.
The Indian Coast Guard and the Forest Department have set up camps to guard the turtles and prevent the entry of fishing vessels. Surprise raids are also being carried out to prevent fishing within the turtle gathering areas.
“The arrival of Olive Ridley turtles has its implication on the ecology of Gahirmatha. We need to ensure they have a safe nesting season. The arrival of these turtles has been on a steady rise since past few years and we need to work towards maintaining it,” said environmentalist Satrughna Tarai.
Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik, in the meanwhile, built a magnificent sand art to create awareness about Olive Ridley turtles and the mass nesting at Gahirmatha.
“I welcome our guest…#OliveRidleys start laying eggs at Gahirmatha @odisha,” tweeted Sudarsan.