Times of India
Tue, 04 Feb 2014 11:54 CST
More than 145 dead turtles were found on the stretch between Marina Beach and Neelankarai, while 226 were found between Neelankarai and Marakkanam. In Andhra Pradesh, Nellore recorded 547 carcasses. Marine conservationists say there has been a sharp increase in the number of dead turtles found along the beaches of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
The main problem, according to marine experts, is fishing nets. The turtles normally come to nest on beaches on the east coast from January to March. “The female turtles dig nests and lay around 60 to 120 eggs at a time. The same turtles may nest two or three times and stay close to the shore during this time. As they stay close to the shore, many easily get entangled in the fishing nets,” said Supraja Dharini, chairperson of TREE Foundation, a non-governmental organization that works for the protection of endangered marine species. The foundation conducted the study of the beaches.
Dharini said not a single day passed in January without phone calls from volunteers about carcasses on beaches. “The main reason for this tragedy is that the turtles get caught in the trawl fishing nets of mechanised boats, gill nets or ray fishing nets. Turtles need to come to the surface of the sea to breathe. Once they are trapped in the net, they remain underwater and drown,” said Dharini.
Marine expert P Dhandapani said the injuries on the carcasses had to be investigated. “In many cases, turtles die after getting entangled in fishing nets. Since the rate of mortality is so high in this case, the injuries on the carcasses need to be investigated properly before reaching a conclusion,” said Dhandapani, retired marine scientist, Zoological Survey of India.
Scientists estimate that only one in 1,000 hatchlings survives to adulthood. Creating awareness, according to Dhandapani, is not enough. “Everyone knows that many turtles die after getting trapped in fishing nets. But how do we stop this? The government must implement the suggestions made by marine scientists such as banning some types of fishing nets to prevent such deaths,” he said.