Gahirmatha marine sanctuary Current Affairs - 2020

Report says Dolphins of Odisha’s Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary has halved

The Forest Department of the Odisha State Government conducted a census at Chilika lake to count the number of dolphins at Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha. The Sanctuary is a part of Bhitarkanika National Park of Odisha. The report was released in February 24, 2020.

Highlights

According to the report, the dolphin count came down to 233 in 2020 from 259 in 2019. At the census, 60 Irawaddy Dolphins and only two bottle nose dolphins were spotted. In 2019, the officials had spotted 14 Irawaddy Dolphins and 14 bottle nose dolphins.

About the Census

The Dolphin Census at the Garimatha Marine Sanctuary was held for the first time in 2015. It was cancelled in 2016 and 2017 due to bad weather.

Chilika Lake and the dolphins

Chilika lake is a Ramsar Site. This year as the prawn Gherries were dismantled, the dolphins were spread all over the lake. Dolphins are listed in Schedule I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) act 1972. The IUCN red list categorizes Dolphins as Endangered.

Bahuda Rookery: Another Olive Ridley Nesting Site in Odisha

Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district are main Olive Ridley Nesting sites in Odisha. Of these sites, Gahirmatha marine sanctuary is largest rookery (mass nesting site) of Olive Ridley turtles. Odisha is home to 50% of the total world’s population of Olive Ridleys and about 90% of Indian population of sea turtles. Recently, Odisha forest department added another olive ridley mass nesting site Bahuda Rookery at beach on Bahuda river mouth in Ganjam district. It is located around 20 km to south of Rushikulya rookery coast.

Olive Ridley

Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in world. It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded. It is best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach each year to lay eggs.

It is found in warm waters of Pacific and Indian oceans. They are found along both-eastern and western coasts of India. It spends entire lives in ocean and migrates thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in course of a year.

Breeding season

Olive Ridley turtles commence their journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year. A single female can lay upto 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on beaches. Six weeks later these eggs hatches and newly hatched turtles start journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.

Threats

Accidental killing of adult turtles through entanglement in trawl nets and gill nets due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches. Poaching for meat, shell and leather, and their eggs. Development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports and tourist centres.

Protection Status

Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years. It is included in Vulnerable category by the IUCN Red list. In India, it is protected under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Moreover, trading in its products are banned under CITES.