The Coast Guard in Odisha has launched ‘Operation Oliver’ as part of its annual mission to ensure the safe mid-sea visit of breeding Olive Ridley sea turtles in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary area of the State.
The operation is being conducted in collaboration with the forest department in order to keep watch and vigil on illegal fishing along the turtle concentration zone.
The authorities have also deployed a state-of-the-art CG ship and a dornier aircraft for the exercise for surveillance on trespassing and keep an eye on illegal fishing in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary. The coast guard has organized interactive sessions with fishermen communities to sensitize them on the legal embargo on fishing during Ridleys’ nesting season.
It is worth recalling that the Odisha Government recently imposed a 7-month fishing ban within 20 km from the river mouths of Dhamara, Devi and Rusikulya in Gamjam district to protect nests of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles. The ban on the 20 km span of the Dhamra-Rushikulya river mouth has been imposed in accordance with Sections 2, 7 and 4 of the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982. These prohibitory orders are now enforced every year to ensure the safety of turtles.
Olive Ridley Turtles:
- Scientific name: Lepidochelys olivacea .
- Also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle.
- Found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific andIndian Oceans.
- Global population of annual nesting females of these turtles reduced to 852,550 by 2008.
- Considered vulnerable because of their few remaining nesting sites in the world.
- Largest breeding ground for these turtles: The Gahirmatha Beach in Kendrapara district of Odisha (India), now a part of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Bhitarkanika Mangroves designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2002.
- World’s largest known rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles.
- Two other mass nesting beaches on the mouth of rivers Rushikulya and Devi.
Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary
Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is located in Orissa and is only marine wildlife sanctuary of Orissa. This sanctuary boasts of possessing the world’s largest known rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtle.
Olive Ridley is classified as Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature And Natural Resources (IUCN), and is listed in Appendix I of CITES. These turtles are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed arribadas.
The winter season is the mating and breeding season of these turtles. So accordingly, the fishing activities inside the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and 20 kms off the shore are banned for 7 months starting from November 1 to May 31 every year. The ban is enforced under the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982 and Orissa Marine Fishing Rules, 1983 to protect the endangered Olive Ridley Sea turtles.