ORISSA, India -- Illegal fishing trawlers butchered around 1800 endangered Olive Ridley Turtles along the coast of Orissa during the current nesting season.
Annually, thousands of these endangered species fall prey to trawlers used in illegal fishing off the state's coast.
Trapped by sharp motor blades, many are ruthlessly butchered or suffocated in the nets fishermen.
This year too, turtles have been washed ashore after being killed by the trawlers moving along the Orissa coastline.
Officials say the casualty is low this year compared to previous years.
"The casualties have gone down. For the last three years, turtle casualties have gone down. This year, it is around 1800 turtles. We have set up 45 camps to monitor the shore. Earlier, the casualties used to be in the range of 12 to 15,000 a year. For the last three years, it is hovering around 3000," said Suresh Kumar Mohanty, Orissa's Chief Wildlife Warden.
Carcasses line the Rishikulya, Puri and Devi Beaches of the state. At Devi Beach alone, about 500 carcasses were found.
Out of the three, Rishikulya is said to be a major nesting ground for the turtles.
Though fishing is restricted around the marine sanctuary, mechanized trawlers move freely scouring the sea-floor within 200- 300 metres of the sanctuary.
The mechanized boats and trawlers not only kill the turtles, but also destroy marine resources on the sea-floor.
The stench emanating from dead turtles poses great inconvenience to locals and also keeps tourists away from the region.
"Turtle carcasses get buried in sand. The coastline is also dirtied, and there is a lot of smell. Tourists are also staying away because of this reason," said N. Narayan, a local resident.
The Olive Ridley Turtle, which can grow up to 75 cm in length, is mostly found in tropical regions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
The turtles are vulnerable because of the high mortality rates. According to studies, only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings reach adulthood.
The Orissa Government has declared the whole nesting area a marine sanctuary and has banned mechanised trawlers from plying in the area. Local fishermen have been urged to include turtle excluding devices in their fishing equipment.
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