A three-member panel constituted by the Orissa High Court on Saturday made a field trip to the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and assessed the measures taken for the conservation of endangered olive ridley sea turtles.
Recently an online environment magazine reported death of 800 olive ridley since January due to negligence of the States Forest and Fisheries department.
The court took suo motu cognisance of the report on February 23, constituted the panel and asked it to submit a report on the conservation of sea turtles in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary on March 10.
A court takes a Suo Moto Cognizance of a legal matter when it receives information about the violation of rights or breach of duty through media or a third party’s notification. In India, Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution lay ground for filing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India in Supreme Court and High Courts respectively. This has given rise to the court’s’ power to initiate legal action on their cognizance of a matter.The rationale behind the Suo Moto actions of the High Courts and The Supreme Court is the desire to deliver justice to everyone, even to the people who might not able to afford it.
- The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
- These turtles are carnivoresand get their name from their olive coloured carapace.
- They are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
- The olive ridley turtles turn up in millions for mass nesting along the Odisha coast every year namely at three river mouths: Dhamara, Devi and Rushikulya.
- Gahirmatha beach off Bay of Bengal coast in Kendrapara district is acclaimed as the world’s largest nesting ground of these turtles.
- It extends from Dhamra Rivermouth in the north to Brahmani river mouth in the south.
- The wetland is represented by 3 Protected Areas, the Bhitarkanika National Park, the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary.
- The species is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, Appendix 1 in CITES, and Schedule 1 in Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- They are extensively poached for their meat, shell and leather, and their eggs.
- However, the most severe threat they face is the accidental killing through entanglement in trawl nets and gill nets due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches.
- To reduce accidental killing in India, the Odisha government has made it mandatory for trawls to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs),a net specially designed with an exit cover which allows the turtles to escape while retaining the catch.
Five species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands.
- Olive Ridley turtle
- Green turtle
- Hawksbill turtle
- Loggerhead turtle
- Leatherback turtle
Except the Loggerhead, the remaining four species nest along the Indian coast.