The Odisha government will ban hunting for seven months from November around the sites where the critically endangered olive ridley turtles congregate for mass nesting.

Senior Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra has directed various departments to ensure concerted efforts at ground level in the conservation and care of olive trees, according to an official statement released on Tuesday.

During a virtual meeting of the High Level Committee on Olive Oil Conservation on Monday, Mohapatra stressed the need to actively involve all stakeholders, NGOs and the local community in such actions.

Olive ridley turtles – a species of sea turtle listed in the IUCN Red List – bring in the millions for mass nesting along the coast of Odisha each year.

The reptile lays its eggs at Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapara district, Rushikulya estuary in Ganjam district and Devi estuary in Puri district.

Read also | Nearly 2 crores of Olive Ridley turtles made their way into the sea from Odisha Beach: DFO

Fishing by motorized vessels or trawlers and motorized methods will be prohibited from November 1 until May 31 at 20 km from the coast where the catchment area and buffer zones are located in the estuaries of the Dhamra, Devi and Rushikulya rivers.

The statement said the Coast Guard has been asked to share real-time intelligence with departments about any illegal fishing.

Fisheries Minister Raghu Prasad said a mobile app has been developed to help fishermen know the no-fishing area and get an alert when they enter this area.

The Chief Secretary directed all officers involved in the preservation process to download the application to confirm the location of the fishing boats.

The Defense Research and Development Organization and Ports of Dhamra, Gopalpur and Paradip have been asked to follow dimming and light practices to save the turtles from potential delusion.

The port authorities were asked to provide the necessary support for joint patrols at sea and docking of ships.

At the meeting to discuss the work plan for 2021-22, it was decided that sporadic nesting activities and deaths of turtles would be monitored through an online portal. The vents will be fenced off shortly after collective nesting to protect the nests and eggs.

A total of 66 patrol camp sites, including five off-shore camps, will be operated around the clock.

Read also | Chennai: Indian Coast Guard rescues sea turtles entangled in nets

Senior Treasurer (Forestry) Mona Sharma said the state’s four wildlife divisions – Bhadrak, Rajnagar, Puri and Berhampur – have been outfitted with five high-speed boats, 13 trawlers and support boats to hunt down illegal activities at sea.

In the last nesting season, about 3.5 lakh turtles laid their eggs on the Jaharmatha coast. Shashi Paul, chief forest (wildlife) conservation official said thirty-eight fishing vessels were seized and 202 people were arrested.

“As we have gained more experience and invested large sums of money for this purpose (conservation of the environment), we must do our best to save this species for the global community,” the Secretary-General said.

During “arribada” (arrival by sea in Spanish), female turtles usually reach the beaches at the end of the night to lay eggs. Then they return to the sea.

Olive Ridley usually lays about 120-150 eggs and the chicks after emerging from these eggs travel in a period of 45 to 60 days to the sea. They grow up without their mothers.

Reports suggest that out of every 1,000 young ones entering the sea, only one manages to reach adulthood, according to Odisha Tourism.

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