Olive Ridley sea turtles sighted off Odisha's Ganjam coast

Berhampur (Odisha): Olive Ridley sea turtles were spotted off Ganjam coast in Odisha as the endangered species gathered in the Rushikulya river-mouth for the mating season.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Berhampur, A K Behera, said that it is likely to pick up gradually in the next few days. The turtles usually start their mating in second or third week of November. But this time the process has been delayed. "However, it will not impact of mass nesting of the turtles if the climatic condition remains favourable," former Chief Conservator of Forests Sudhakar Mohapatra said.

Rushikulya river mouth is touted as the second largest rookery of Olive Ridley turtles in the world after Gahiramatha in Kendrapara district of the state. Patrolling has been intensified in the area to provide security to turtles and reduce mortality. "We have set up nine camps along the Ganjam coast - from Prayagi to Sonepur. Two forest personnel are deployed in each camp," the DFO said.

Besides, a 10-member sea patrolling squad has also been deployed. The squad has two speed boats and two trawlers, he said. The forest staff of Khallikote range have also been asked to patrol the coast. "We have also sought cooperation from directorate of fisheries and marine police to prevent illegal fishing in the sea," he added.

The government has imposed ban on fishing by mechanised boats in 20-km radius off the coast. "We have seized a trawler from Andhra Pradesh. It intruded into our water illegally. Eight fishermen from the neighbouring state were arrested," he said.

In the last two months, 28 turtle carcasses have been found along Ganjam coast, he said. The turtles perished after being hit by the propeller of fishing trawlers, forest officials said. The mass nesting of the turtles will take place in the last week of February or first week of March. Hatchlings would emerge from the eggs after 45 to 60 days and find their way into the sea.

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