Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals
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Sea Turtle Protection

VSPCA Sea Turtle Project Update - September 2004

Our Aims

- To bring awareness and education to the coast of Andhra Pradesh up to Orissa of the Olive Ridley sea turtle's plight.

- To bring an end to the inability of the females being able to nest properly. To guard beach areas so that the eggs are able to hatch undisturbed. To maintain the natural environment for the future enjoyment of all and the fishermen's livelihood. To enlist the help of the law to stop all current harmful activities towards sea turtles - such as nets and habitat destruction from construction projects.

Background

The VSPCA is in the eight year of our campaign to save, protect and help conserve the endangered sea turtles extending up from Visakha through the entire Srikakulam Coast (180 kms).

With team coordination from the Forest Department, Volunteers (both national and international) and our ground level staff we have seen positive trends.

Our 2003-2004 campaign is in association and successful working involvement with all departments: The Fisheries, SIFT - Kakinada, CIFT, Visakhapatnam, MPEDA - Visakhapatnam and Forest Department with participations from local NGOs as VIKASA and Blue Cross.

Our program aims for each village along the coast to fully participate with us. We are extending the field protection beyond Peddanagayapalam. An awareness campaign was carried out in few villages of Srikakulam with the object of extending this to other potential coastal places through our efforts.

Our least objective is to involve the community by creating more awareness and education of the necessity for sea turtle conservation. We pledge to continue on these lines.

Yet it is very disheartening to note dissenting views of all the major trawler and mechanized boat associations in using the Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). This is due more to their ignorance rather than refusal to comply. The TEDs are more important than any other type of protection and many nations lead India in enforcing their use. We watch in utter awe and helplessness at the brutality of sea turtles strangled in the nets.

Then the taku nets that are used by the traditional fishermen do not discriminate as to the deep waters or close to the shore and kill the turtles in both while they are trying to nest. It is disturbing that the females are dying in thousands along the Coasts of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Therefore there are tragically two death occurrences. Once during October-November because the trawlers are catching the turtles in their long drawn nets with no chance of escape. And again during the nesting season from Feb-May when they want to come ashore to lay eggs but their heads get stuck in the taku nets.

The Srikakulam area bordering Orissa State is very dangerous to the turtles.

The areas that need multiple prolonged efforts are protection and conservation. In order of priority they are:

  1. Protection in the field
  2. Awareness and protection within the community
  3. Sustained campaigning with mechanized and trawler associations for the use of TEDS.

Eight years ago the people of Andhra Pradesh did not know that the sea turtles were a species deserving conservation. On the coast poaching and the right to eat their eggs and flesh was in vogue. Due to our vigorous information campaign, which finally got the natural sympathy from human nature, the fishermen have responded. Now religious sentiments combined with our protection and awareness campaign have yielded a tremendous feeling and a message of goodwill for the sea turtles.

With both the positive gains and the constant setbacks we continue to work vigorously and remain hopeful with each passing year.

Swarna Andhra Sagara Teeram Road from Bhimili to Visakha

We had turned the tide of the sea turtles fate at this stretch of coast after immense problems relating to their habitat encroachment. Due to illegal constructions their environment had been virtually robbed away. So they realized a better nascent place further along the Visakha urban nesting. We documented a four-km. stretch with significant nesting per season averaging 200, which is braving all the odds. Olive Ridleys still are an astonishing sight.

At the same time the Swarna Andhra Sagara Teeram Road - nearly 20 kms. stretching from Bhimili to Vuda Beach -- where the Visakha urban nesting ends gave a big coup to the developers. Instead of correcting the thirteen odd shrimp hatcheries with their toxic wastes arbitrarily dumped into the ocean to threaten all fishing, permission was given to construct a four bye-lane towards the seaward side. Encompassing forest reserves and mangroves and transforming the entire area it will usher in more structures which will seriously threaten the sea turtle's innocent habitat.

On the drawing board is the permission for over 34 construction projects to begin any moment for various sorts of entertainment. Because of this the Olive Ridleys now may face a concentration camp.

We remain in utter despair. We hope the Centrally Empowered Committee constituted under The Supreme Court will see rationally through the entire and give the benefit to the sea turtles. A better landscape is needed auguring well for all.

Filed at this Committee under The United Forum for the Protection of the Environment and People's Livelihood Rights at the Coast of Visakhapatnam comprising of six representatives from different fields of concern disappointed at this expansion, namely the 24 fishing villages, that are will be effected and displaced. These short-term attitudes will do much harm to the innocent and peaceful livelihoods and the species, which will be cruelly encroached upon.

We appeal calling for the maintenance and sustenance of our priceless beaches in all its natural splendor. This would thereby not deprive the rightful place of the sea turtles nor disturb the fishermen's occupation.

What is the point of benefiting a few but ultimately permanently destroying the environment? No new resorts or motels can provide the beautiful surroundings of a clean beach.

Decline in Nestings

As I recently answered the journalist for The Hindu Reporter after having consistent nesting gains since 1996-97 in the 4 km. stretch from Naval Coastal Battery to VUDA beach - there was a 20% decline last season. Although there was a rise in nestings in the stretch from MVP area to Bhimili from last year.

The indications are clear that the 20% decline is due to the serious disturbances in the landscaping of the beach. This is mainly where the height of sand is risen very high due to a long stretch of construction work.

For instance the entire area of the submarine base has totally destroyed the nesting grounds of nearly 200 meters on either side. Adding the 200 meters of constructed fencing it is now a raised sand platform while mangroves are densely covered on the sides making the ground a total loss.

Therefore we point out that disturbances such as these are very dangerous to the sea turtle habitats and must never be allowed.

All concerned must take the pledge to not even consider such constructions!!!

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that despite the significant numbers of sea turtle nesting sighted, every season passes by with new decisions and agreements that gradually and imminently threaten the very existence of the beach ecology.

We have been protesting at every occasion possible but are thwarted with coercions and delays. Today the beach landscape is changing with every such construction on the sand. It is terribly disheartening that the Olive Ridleys time and again fail to climb the three feet sand height or get stuck in the mangroves and finally reluctantly crawling back towards the shore or in emergency laying near to the shore where there is no hope for the nest to survive. These incidences are increasing and so the nests are destroyed. Biologists must understand that these incidences are not at all natural. We are dealing with endangered species and we have learned that any amount of effort will help in their conservation.

The tragic situation is that currently 20% of fishermen leave their villages for other occupations. Due to the combined factors of serious fish catch decline and the potential threat to their revenue they are migrating elsewhere. They are forced to become laborers at the mercy of temporary employment.

All of these illegal constructions are human-made objectives that deprives and pushes the whole conservation related area to destruction. These are adding more risks to the fragile existence of the Oceanic Life Cycle.

- Every construction on the beach is a disaster to the beach environment and to the sea turtle habitat in particular.

- Every construction on the beach saps the total of short-term gains towards helping the sea turtles and continues without the proper environmental procedures needed.

In service for the animals,
Pradeep Kumar Nath
Founder and President VSPCA

We are grateful to:

Mr. M. Sudhakar, IFS, the Conservator of Forests,
Mr. Ashok Sinha, IFS, the Divisional Forest Officer for their readiness and help in these efforts.

ANNEX

Details of Sea Turtle Nestings:

(A) Visakhapatnam Urban Beach (Naval Coast Battery to VUDA Park) -- distance of four kms.

- A total of 197 nestings sighted - that laid eggs.
- 29 went back without laying.
- Average distance from shore point high tide to nest was 28 feet.
- Much less than last year, when 234 nestings were sighted. This is attributable to the disturbance and occupation of beach sand by construction leading to high sand platforms subsequently covered by mangroves.

(B) Appugar, Muvvalavanipalem to Endada - distance of 5 kms.

- A total of 123 nestings sighted that laid eggs
- Three went back without laying.
- Average distance from shore point high tide to nest were 20 feet.
- Much more than last year's count of 67 indicating preference to lesser-disturbed areas.

(C) Endada to Bheemili -- distance of 20 kms.

A total of 10 Villages (Chapalaupada, Chinauppada, Chepaladippadapalem, Kotturu, Pukkalapalem, Chokavanipalem, Gowopeta, Gangadapalem, Kapuladippadapalem, Mangavanipeta)

Total Nestings: 37
Total deaths: 19

(D) Bhimili Beach to Peddanaganayyapalem -- distance of 20 kms.

A total of four villages (Yerrapalem, Chintalapalem, Chinnanagayapalem and Peddanagayapalem)

Total nestings: 11
Total deaths: 20

(These deaths could have occurred from shrimp hatcheries that leave their toxic waste in the sea.)