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Maharashtra: Targeted measures could reduce turtle mortality

Updated on: 04 June,2024 07:20 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ranjeet Jadhav |

A study shows distribution of sea turtle mortality hotspots along the Maharashtra coast

Maharashtra: Targeted measures could reduce turtle mortality

The forest department release a turtle that was rescued after it got stranded

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Maharashtra: Targeted measures could reduce turtle mortality

Even as authorities are successful in rescuing stranded sea turtles in over 54 per cent of the instances, targeted mitigation measures may help to reduce turtle mortality along the Maharashtra coast, a study has recommended. A study mapping the distribution and magnitude of sea turtle mortality hotspots along the Maharashtra coast has been published in the open-access biological science journal Hamadryad. The study highlights the fact that both natural calamities and human-induced activities contribute to sea turtle deaths. By distinguishing between these causes, the research underscores the necessity for targeted mitigation measures.

Researchers Prachi Hatkar, Priyamvada Bagaria, Dinesh Vinherkar, Sagar Patel, and the late Dhaval Kansara identified critical hotspots and seasonal patterns, providing vital insights for conservation efforts. The Wildlife Protection Act's Schedule I gives sea turtles the highest level of protection available in India. The research looked at data from 1982 to 2021 and found that 510 sea turtle strandings had been reported on the west coast of Maharashtra. Researchers were able to identify spatiotemporal patterns and comprehend the mechanisms influencing turtle mortality as a result of this comprehensive data collection.

The study emphasises that deaths of sea turtles are caused by both natural disasters and human-caused activities. The research emphasises the need for focused mitigating actions by differentiating these sources. Sea turtle mortality can be considerably decreased by implementing temporal and spatial restrictions based on hotspots and peak stranding seasons that have been identified. The monsoon season (June to August) coincides with the peak stranding season, which is marked by increased fishing activity and choppy seas.

Olive Ridley turtles were the most frequently stranded species, with 360 instances, indicating a significant impact from incidental catch. Green sea turtles followed with 127 instances. Non-nesting species like Hawksbill (16 instances), Loggerhead (five instances), and Leatherback (three instances) were also noted, indicating their rarity along the Maharashtra coast.

A higher percentage of females among stranded turtles suggest many strandings occur during or after nesting periods. The successful release of 54.8 per cent of the turtles is a testament to the efforts of the Dahanu forest department staff, local NGOs, volunteers, and the local community.

The study identified several hotspots, with the highest number of stranding reports from Chikhale, Nivati, Chinchani, Juhu, Vengurla, and Dhakti, followed by Khavane, Bordi, and Dandi on the west coast of Maharashtra. The research also drew attention to the significant threat to turtles from being unintentionally caught in various fishing nets, including Dol nets, hook and lines, gillnets, bag nets, Rampani nets, and ghost nets.

"Our study provides a comprehensive overview of sea turtle mortality along the Maharashtra coast, emphasizing the need for strategic conservation actions," said lead author Prachi Hatkar. "By identifying hotspots and understanding seasonal patterns, we can implement effective measures to protect these endangered species," she said.

Sea turtles play a crucial role in ocean ecosystems. They maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs, facilitate nutrient cycling, and provide habitat for other marine life. As sea turtle populations decline, their ability to perform these roles diminishes, impacting the health of the oceans. Sea turtle populations is essential for sustaining healthy marine ecosystems.

This research marks a step forward in conserving sea turtles and highlights the urgent need to mitigate their threats. The successful release of 54.8 per cent of turtles is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Dahanu forest department staff, local NGO, volunteers, and the local community's support. 

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