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Over 100 turtles found dead in 20 days

Over 100 turtles found dead in 20 days

S. Poorvaja
Officials say meetings with fishermen have been held

Members of the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), who have been going on turtle walks since the beginning of January, say they have found over 100 dead turtles on the coast from Neelankari to Broken Bridge.

V. Arun, a co-ordinator with the SSTCN, said there was an increasing trend of dead turtles being found on the coast over the past four to five years. “This year, however, it has been very high and during a walk on a night after January 1, we found 13 dead turtles,” he said.

“Whether it is the presence of more unregistered trawlers or an increase in intensive fishing near the coast, we are trying to find out the reason. We have been urging the Fisheries Department to implement the rule banning trawling around five nautical miles near the coast more strictly,” he said. The total number of dead turtles found along the same stretch during the nesting season last year was around 200, and the previous year, it was 300, activists said.

Shravan Krishnan, a volunteer with SSTCN and an animal activist, said many volunteers on walks from January 1 were witness to horrific sights of dead turtles lying mangled and bloodied on the sand. “There needs to be more regulation by the Fisheries Department with regard to trawling close to the coast and using Turtle Excluder Devices (TED,” he said.

Official sources in the Fisheries Department said fishermen had been asked to use TEDs this season. As far as trawling within the five nautical mile limit is concerned, only country craft fish in that area. “Trawling does not happen closer to the coast as it is considered the fishing grounds of smaller craft. Two weeks ago, training programmes on the importance of TEDs and turtles in the ecosystem were conducted for fishermen in all the coastal districts,” the official said.

Nanjil Ravi of the Akila Indhiya Meenavar Sangam said that fishing alone was not the cause of the mortality of turtles. “The efficiency of the TED is still being debated,” he said. Mr. Ravi also pointed out that pollution of the sea and beaches due to urbanisation, and the dumping of garbage on the seabed within the five nautical mile limit were also causes of turtle mortality.

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