With the west coast of Maharashtra witnessing continuous moderate to heavy rainfall, an increasing number of sea turtles have washed ashore in the last one month.
State Forest department’s Mangrove Foundation has rescued 42 sea turtles from beaches along the Konkan coast in the last one month. Of the 42 rescued, 37 were Olive Ridley turtles, three Hawksbill and two Green Sea turtles. One Green sea turtle, which is an endangered species, was released back into the sea. Out of the 37 Olive Ridley Turtles, five died during the treatment.
Majority of sea turtles were rescued from Palghar district and many had their flappers missing or damaged. “During monsoon, because of change in sea currents and high tides, turtles that are either injured or too weak to swim get washed ashore. Many turtles, especially those rescued from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, were found entangled in ghost nets (nets that are discarded and left by fishermen in the sea),” said Harshal Karve, marine biologist with Mangrove Foundation. The injured or stranded sea turtles are treated and rehabilitated at the Sea Turtle Treatment and Transit Centre at Dahanu in Palghar.
The Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity conservation foundation was set up in 2015 under the state Forest department. It works towards conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity and also improving the lives of coastal communities. It has a marine respondent group in coastal districts of Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad and Ratnagiri.
The marine respondents are mostly local fishermen, who alert and assist the department in rescue of marine animals. The Mangrove Cell and the state Fisheries department have a joint compensation scheme under which fishermen who release protected marine animals, such as sea turtles, entangled in their fishing nets are given monetary compensation up to Rs 25,000. Experts believe the monetary compensation and awareness programmes in the coastal districts have helped in reporting of these incidents.
Out of the seven sea turtle species found in the world, four are known to nest on the Indian mainland. However, the Olive Ridley turtle is the only species that nests along the coast of Maharashtra. On some occasions Green Sea turtles and Hawksbill turtles are found on state beaches. Mangrove Foundation has also commissioned a research study of the incubation temperature of the nesting population of Olive Ridley turtles along the coast of Maharashtra. The study aims to understand Olive Ridley turtle’s nesting ecology along the state’s coastline.
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