India: Action plan for conservation of sea turtle, dugong ready

D.J. WALTER SCOTT The Hindu 15 Oct 15;
Sea grass mapping, aerial survey completed to conserve dugong

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park has drawn up an action plan for conservation of sea turtles and dugong in the Gulf of Mannar region and is all set to distribute ‘Turtle excluder devices’ (TED) to fishermen, Deepak S. Belgi, Wildlife Warden of the park, has said.

Elaborating on the action plan, he said that the conservation programme would be implemented under Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project with demonstration of the efficacy of the TED, a specialised device that allowed sea turtles to escape when caught in fishing nets used for bottom trawling during November-December.

“We want to create awareness of the device and the need to conserve and preserve sea turtles which helped to increase fish population,” Mr. Belgi told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

Installation of the TED in fishing nets would result in two to three per cent catch loss, but would greatly help in maintaining ecological balance, he said.

Sea turtles fed on jelly fish which, in turn, fed mainly on fish eggs and hatchlings and affected fish population growth in the sea, he said, adding turtles played a positive role in fishermen’s livelihood. There were five species of sea turtles – Olive, Green, Loggerheads, Leatherhead and Hawksbill – in the Gulf of Mannar region, he noted.

The fishermen had been educated to let the captured turtles back into the sea but by the time they returned to shore after fishing, the turtles which needed to come to the surface every 40 minutes would be dead. The TEDs would be distributed to the fishermen after demonstration of their acceptability, he added.

Dugong conservation

As part of the dugong conservation project, the park had completed sea grass mapping work from Rameswaram to Adhiramapattinam near Point Calimere in the Palk Bay. A boat survey was also done to assess dugong population from Rameswaram to Thondi, but no dugong could be sighted.

“However, we found traces of dugong feeding on sea grass,” he said.

An aerial survey had also been completed and the action plan was being readied. The park proposed to educate the fishing population on the need to conserve dugong and provide them compensation for the rescue and rehabilitation of dugong, he added.