Bhubaneswar, Nov 8: Known as the most favoured nesting place for Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, Odisha is set to utilise this annual phenomenon for promoting tourism, officials said today.
“Since Odisha is the most favoured nesting place for Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, we should try to market it for tourism promotion by raising watch towers at a safe distance and using binoculars to watch the turtles,” Development Commissioner R N Senapati said.
Senapati, however, cautioned officials to adopt adequate precautions keeping in mind the interest of the marine creature.
“They should not be disturbed at any cost and ensure that no harm is done to nesting by tourism,” he said asking the Forest and Environment Department to chalk out a detailed plan for promotion and regulation of tourism in association with the Department of Tourism.
While the stretch of beach between Ekakulanasi and Gahiramatha coast of Bhitarkanika is the largest rookery of Olive Ridley in the world, the sandy beach of river Rusikulya in Ganjam district is another mass nesting site for turtles.
Other nesting places are also seen along the river mouths of Subarnarekha, Budhabalanga, Dhamara, Maipura, Baunshagarh, Hansua,Gobari, Kushabhadra, Kadua, Prachi and Devi, official sources said.
“Odisha holds 50 per cent of total world population of turtles and 90 per cent of Indian population of sea turtles,” officials claimed adding the estimated population of Olive Ridley turtles during mass nesting seasons along Odisha coast has shown a constant growth over last decade.
In 2002-03 their number in Gahiramatha and Rusikulya was estimated at 2.81 lakh, which rose to 4.65 lakh in 2005-06 and 5.13 lakh in 2009-10.
The year 2010-11 recorded a sharp growth up to 7.24 lakh due to two-time mass nesting in Gahiramatha during that year. In 2011-12 their number was estimated at 5.69 lakh.
The Development Commissioner claimed that there has been a sharp decline in sea turtle causalities in the last decade due to protection measures taken by the government in coordination with local people and voluntary organisations.
While the number of causalities in 2001-02 was recorded at 12,977, it came down to 3,242 in 2005-06 and 3,173 in 2010-11. The number of causalities fell to 2.382 in 2011-12.
With the beginning of the nesting season from November, the state government decided that all coastal forest divisions, wildlife head quarters, marine police stations, officers of fishery department and coast guard will work in tandem for protection of the turtles like last year.
“Sea patrolling, night patrolling will be intensified during current nesting season. The mass nesting places will be protected with fencing and night watch to save the eggs from attack of dogs and other threats,” an official said.
Meanwhile, Home Department has deployed APR Force under coastal forest divisions like Bhadrakh, Kendrapara (Rajnagar Division), Puri (Puri Wild Life Dvn) and Ganjam (Berhampur Forest Dvn.)
The district collectors of certain coastal areas have been asked to depute Magistrates as and when required, they said.
Marine Police stations along the coast will depute their speed boats for joint patrolling with personnel of concerned forest divisions.
The joint sea sorties will cover all sea turtle congregation areas of Gahiramatha, Devi and Rusikulya river mouths.
Meanwhile, the fisheries department has issued notification for prohibition of fishing in trawlers within 20 kms zone of the sea from November 1 to May 31.
It has also been decided that required lighting regulations will be done along the nesting sites to save the turtles from any distraction, they said.