At least 36 carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles were washed ashore near the Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district, a major mass nesting site area of these endangered species, on Thursday. "Most of the carcasses were in a decomposed state. We suspect these drifted to the shore from the deep sea. There is nothing alarming about it," said DFO (Berhampur) S S Mishra.
Wildlife activists, however, said the number of carcasses washed ashore was much more than the official figure. "Strict patrolling is needed to protect the marine creatures. Wanton fishing by trawlers is one of the main reasons behind the death of the turtles," said Rabindra Sahu, a wildlife activist.
He said some fishing trawlers from Andhra Pradesh enter Odisha waters for fishing. They do not use the exclusive fishing device, leading to the death of the turtles in the sea.
"We have been demanding speed boats patrolling for the last several years. But our demand has fallen on deaf ears and fishing boats are instead being used for the purpose," said another activist.
The DFO said forest personnel and local volunteers guard the mating turtles in the Bay of Bengal, while Coast Guards look after their safety. "Fishing trawlers are often asked to leave the prohibitory areas in the sea," he said. The government also imposes a ban on fishing along the 170-km long coastline from November 1 to May 31 to protect the turtles, he added.
Millions of turtles come ashore Rushikulya river mouth during the last week of February for mass nesting on Kantiagada and Gokaharakuda beaches every year. It is considered the second major mass nesting site of the turtles after Gahiramatha in Kendrapara district. Devi river mouth in Puri district is other mass nesting site in the state.