Recently 13 dead bodies of turtles were discovered. Activists who are working on conservation efforts of the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles in Chennai are now worried a lot after finding over 40 dead turtles which washed ashore over the last 20 days. This Monday, January 9, 2017, alone, 13 bodies were recovered.

The active Volunteers of Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), who were carrying out conservation activities on Chennai beaches since 1988, said that these figures are limited to the 14-kilometre stretch line between Marina Beach and Besant Nagar Beach. This region, they used to patrol every night from January to April during their turtle nesting season since 1988. Chennai beaches have up to 300 turtle nests and each year the transience rates are very high, says the activities.

“The nesting season has just begun and we already have 41 dead turtles on the beach,” said SSTCN coordinator Akila Balu. Are turtle lives in danger? Or is there some other reason behind their sudden death?

According to Akila Balu, an activist “A majority of these turtles die due to due to drowning after getting stuck in trawling nets. Some also end up losing a flipper or being hit by the propeller,” The Volunteers are now already worried about the future that may come up in February, the busiest month for turtles heading towards the beaches to lay eggs.

“Fishing nets also threaten the hatchlings when they go back into the sea. There seems to be no concern from the fisheries department towards conservation of these turtles, who have been coming for thousands of years to our beaches,” quoted Akila Balu

Tourists and commercial fishing pose have always been a major threat to these turtles. Prompt proposals were also given to the Tamil Nadu Government to pass orders last year to prohibit any kind of fishing activities in a radius of five nautical miles around the nesting and breeding sites of ridleys and turtle. But nothing really happened so far and is what the results shows.

According to animal Activist Shravan Krishnan, “Despite the orders one can find these trawlers all over. The fisheries department seems to be a mute spectator as the trawling and commercial fishing is owned by businessmen with strong backings.”

However, the better part is the Central Fisheries Department made it mandatory for trawlers to have a Turtle Excluder Device (TED). It is a small flap-like opening made in the nets so that turtles or dolphins can escape but the saddest part is none of the trawlers has it. It was known by the reports from Krishnan.

“While studies proved that only a marginal two to four per cent of the catch might escape from the TED, it would immensely help in conservation. However, there has been no action against defaulting trawlers by the government despite NGOs and the even Forest Department putting pressure,” said Shravan Krishnan.

However, according to the activists, if foremost actions are not taken against this scenario, turtle lives may get extinct from Chennai Sea beach area.

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