WWF urges the government to strengthen measures for protection and conservation of sea turtles

WWF urges the government to strengthen measures for protection and conservation of sea turtles

New Delhi, Jun 19: WWF has urged the government to strengthen measures for protection and conservation of sea turtles, whose population was threatened by thousands of killings during trawling of shrimps every year. The WWF said,”Tens of thousands of marine turtles are killed each year during trawling for shrimps. A simple solution to the problem is the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in the trawl nets.

The use of TEDs has proven to have reduced turtle bycatch by upto 97 per cent with minimal shrimp catch loss.” India is one of the largest exporters of shrimps, mainly, to the US and EU markets with approximately 46 per cent of shrimps being wild caught. India is also home to the largest mass nesting Olive Ridley turtle population which is threatened by shrimp trawling without TEDs.

The government has been facilitating the installation of TEDs in shrimp trawl boats through Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), and the state government of Odisha has made it mandatory for all trawlers to use TEDs.

However implementation of these regulations is still a concern and needs to be strengthened. “Marine turtles represent a vital natural heritage for India and the country should do all it can to protect turtles from critical threats such as bycatch, loss of nesting habitat, and climate change.

Transforming the shrimp industry towards sustainability, including the use of Turtle Excluder Devices is a critical way forward,” Dr Sejal Worah, Programme Director, WWF India said.

WWF called on the EU to immediately take action to protect marine turtles by requiring that all tropical shrimp trawlers exporting into the EU implement TEDs. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), bycatch poses the single most serious threat to marine turtles worldwide. Marine turtles play a key role in marine ecosystems by, among other things, maintaining the health of sea grasses and coral reefs. “The future of many of the world’s marine turtle populations rests on reforming the tropical shrimp production system across the value chain.

A shift in global consciousness on the consumption of shrimp from fisheries implicated in marine turtle bycatch is essential,” the report highlighted. Olive Ridleys come to Odisha ashore simultaneously by the hundreds and thousands to nest in one of the nature’s greatest spectacles. Major threats to Olive Ridleys include mortality associated with boat collisions, and incidental takes in fisheries.

Trawling, gill nets, ghost nests, longline fishing, and pot fishing, have significantly affected their populations, as well as other species of marine turtles. More than 100,000 Olive Ridley turtles were reported dead in Odisha between 1993 and 2003, due to fishery-related practices. Entanglement and ingestion of marine debris is also a major threat for this species while coastal development, natural disasters, climate change, and other sources of beach erosion are some potential threats to their nesting grounds.