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Proposal seeks to reduce turtle mortality

B. Aravind Kumar

CHENNAI: Navin Srinivas, software professional and a volunteer on a night patrol last week along the Injambakkam beach, found a female turtle dead with its belly open. Closer to the city, a young volunteer for Students' Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), found a few dead hatchlings near Elliots beach. The two incidents are typical of the causes of the death of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles that visit the city's beaches every year for nesting - the fishing nets that offer no escape for the turtles and the city lighting that lures turtle hatchlings into getting trapped in debris.

At the beginning of the nesting season, Chief Wildlife Warden R. Sundararaju ordered the switching off of mast lights to prevent hatchlings from wandering towards the city instead of the sea. SSTCN volunteers have found over 50 nests this season and.

Tree Foundation, an NGO, has buried about 80 sea turtles this season and is incubating over 80 nests in its hatcheries, says Supraja Dharini, chairperson, Tree Foundation.

“The trawlers should have Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) to enable the turtles caught in the fishing nets to escape to safety,” says Ms. Dharini. The Forest Department and Fisheries Department are exploring the possibility of compensating the fishermen on the lines of the model adopted in Gujarat wherein they will lift their nets every hour to release sea turtles caught in them.

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