COAST GUARD’s “OP OLIVIA” CONCLUDES
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) being a multi-mission maritime armed service has also been entrusted with the responsibility of preserving and protecting the maritime environment. Every year since 1991, ICG had been providing assistance to various Central and State authorities/agencies for the protection of endangered species under the Wild Life Act 1972 and conducts ‘Operation Olivia’ for the protection of endangered Olive Ridley Turtles, which arrive on the beaches of Odisha annually from November and stay till end May for nesting.
Olive Ridley turtles at the nesting ground
The Olive Ridley turtles (Scientific name: Lepidochelys Olivacea) 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 best known for their unique mass nesting, where thousands of female turtles come together on the same beach to lay eggs. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years and the species is recognized as vulnerable. These turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean and migrate thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year. Interestingly, female turtles return to the very same beach to lay their eggs from where they first hatched.
The coast of Odisha in India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive-Ridley turtles in the world. WWF-India along with the fishermen community has been involved in protecting the Olive Ridley rookery at the mass nesting site at Rushikulaya, Odisha by fencing off the nesting area and patrolling it till hatching and ensuring a safe passage for the hatchlings to the sea. All species of sea turtles are hunted for their flesh and beautiful carapace. Turtle oil is used in cosmetics, while their skin is used for leather production. Every year hundreds of thousands of turtles are captured, injured, or killed in gill/ trawl nets, due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches.
Headquarters No 7, Coast Guard District (Odisha) at Paradip in coordination with State Fisheries and the Forest department conducted the operations which commences on 01 November 22 till 31 May 23. The operation was undertaken to provide protection to the Olive Ridley Turtles in the world’s largest nesting ground off Odisha’s coast. Various coordination meetings and awareness programme were coordinated by ICG for sensitizing the coastal populace and fishing community, as part of the operation. During this period fishing vessels/boats operating close to marine reserve areas/ protected areas were regularly checked by the Coast Guard boarding party, for the usage of Turtle Excluder Device (TED).
ICG personnel engaged in the rescue of Olive Ridley turtles entangled in nets
ICG ships and aircraft are deployed/ tasked with the protection of turtles and to ensure that an appropriate environment is provided to the turtle for mass nesting and to enforce the legislation promulgated by the Government on the subject. This year i.e. from 01 Nov 22 to 31 May 23, during the conduct of the operation, ICG ships were deployed for 219 ship days and ICG aircraft were tasked for about 163 hrs, which has helped in the reduction of causalities to a large extent. Four fishing boats were apprehended for violation of the law. This year approximately Five lakh three thousand turtle nests were reported at various sites along the Odisha coast.