Kendrapara (Orissa): Sighting of bloated and motionless bodies of Olive Ridley sea turtles lend credence to the belief that unlawful trawling operation despite prohibition is in full swing along the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Orissa`s Kendrapara district.
Bodies of dead turtles are sporadically dispersed along the stretch of the beach from Dhamra to Paradip coast.
Unofficial estimates put the toll at more than 5,000 while the forest officials restrict the death figure at 671.
The turtles death toll is on the lower side this time. The vigil and surveillance on trawl fishing is stepped up. That’s why, the marine visitors are comparatively safer this year, Prasanna Kumar Behera, divisional forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division, claimed.
However, ground reality is grim and it hardly substantiates official claim.
Wildlife activists argue that turtles are dying en-masse in several strategic locations and accidental death of the amphibians is due to uninterrupted trawling.
``Though marine fishing has been banned along the Gahirmatha water territory under OMFRA, 1982, trawl fishing has become a daily ritual. Turtles get hit by trawler propellers and are killed," said Sudhansu Parida, an activist of People for Animals.
"The animals are getting entangled in the mono-filament nets that are being used by fishing trawls. The mute species are dying of asphyxiation," Parida said.
The beaches at places like Satabhaya, Pentha, Agarnasi and Barunei have turned into a graveyard for the Olive Ridley sea turtles. Any day, one would come across the ghastly sight of rows of decomposed bodies of these delicate marine species, he said.
Forest officials admitted the sighting of turtle carcasses at these places. However, they declined to elaborate on the death toll.