The Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium has developed a project that aims at marine conservation goals through a focus on strengthening livelihoods. The project is an extension and expansion of the efforts of the first phase of a project, undertaken with support from the Ford Foundation and administered through the OMRCC member – the United Artists’ Association – an organisation based in coastal Orissa. The OMRCC and the current project began around the urgent problem of building resolution mechanisms for conflicts between marine conservation and fisheries livelihood goals. The project finds common ground in these two apparently opposing goals and aims at enhancing the livelihoods of local fishing communities, in particular those affected the most by marine conservation measures of the State, which restrict their access to fishery resources.
In Orissa, negative attitudes towards conservation are exaggerated in areas where incomes are low, particularly when local livelihoods are further impacted by conservation restrictions. Instead, if conservation programmes were designed based on an understanding of livelihood losses and were geared to mitigate these losses through enhanced incomes, then the motivation for compliance to laws would be greater. The project seeks to test whether greater community participation and collaborative management practices result in better compliance to regulations and greater security of resources themselves. Finally it is to be tested whether these approaches actually result in favourable attitudes towards conservation and what shape these take.
In the second phase, the project will focus on the Devi River mouth region (a mass nesting beach) and the bulk of interventions (for co-management, education and enterprise development) will take place in the villages around this region. However, some of the management actions require continuing our engagement at other mass nesting sites, taking off from Phase I. A few activities that were initiated in the other two sites of Gahirmatha and Rushikulya will take up a small portion of the project focus. This will be restricted to promotion of tourism actions in Rushikulya and the documentation of fisheries across the state.
The objectives of the project are to:
The above material will be produced in limited amounts (500 each) to inform policy makers about the nature of Orissa’s fisheries and to encourage them to promote and support community-based conservation enterprises.
The activities planned as part of the project all involve the active participation of existing institutions such as the Orissa Traditional Fish Workers Union and other associations of fisherfolk such as trawler associations and local community-based organisations.
The issues identified have been selected after a careful assessment of the needs and priorities in coastal Orissa on the issue of conservation and livelihoods. This ensures the continued interest and engagement on these issues of all the members, which is the very mandate of the Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium. The collaborative machinery that will be put in place in Orissa will assign responsibilities to members who are from these local institutions already having mandates to perform these responsibilities in their current positions (for eg. Association Presidents and Union leaders). These representatives and other representatives of the community will be involved in the planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation of the management mechanisms themselves.
The singularly critical outcome expected from this project is that the Orissa coast will witness more meaningful and increased participation of fisher communities and their institutions in collaborative management initiatives and practices which have a positive influence on compliance to fisheries regulation and greater security of marine resources in the state.
Sporadic nesting of olive ridley turtles has been recorded all along the coast of Goa. Of the 120 km of coastline, about eight kilometres in Goa have been identified as major nesting sites and are being protected by the Goa Forest Department. These sites are Morjim in north Goa and Galgibag and Agonda in south Goa. Nesting takes place between October and March each year.
Realising that community participation is important for the success of conservation efforts, the Goa Forest Department has involved local communities at these nesting sites, and has worked with them for the protection of sea turtles since 1996. Locals are appointed as volunteers to protect nests and turtles and tens of hundreds of hatchlings are released into the sea every year.
Incidentally, these nesting beaches are also a major attraction for tourists and generate revenue for the locals during the tourist season. When compared to the other beaches, Morjim is relatively pristine and secluded and has only recently started attracting tourists. Sea turtles have become one of the major attractions for tourists here. While excessive and unplanned tourism activities need to be controlled, locals can earn their livelihoods while protecting sea turtle nesting habitats. In order to come up with a suitable strategy, members of the local Panchayat were consulted and a meeting was held with other stakeholders along with the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Goa and forest officials on October 4, 2007.
As a preparatory step, the Deputy Conservator of Forests and CEE held meetings with the Range Forest Officer and other Forest Department staff directly involved in turtle conservation in Morjim on September 25, 2007. This meeting helped the Forest Department officials and CEE draw an agenda for the consultation with the Panchayat members. Issues such as involvement of locals in sea turtle conservation, monitoring and protection of turtle nests, and reduction of lighting on the seashore were discussed. The location of tourist shacks (maintenance of a 40 m. distance between shacks) and removal of deck beds from the beach were also considered.
The makeshift shack owners agreed to help the Goa Forest Department by agreeing to the points discussed above. The Goa Forest Department, with the help of local volunteers and communities, has succeeded in protecting six nests found so far this year, of which one has hatched and 114 hatchlings were released. In some cases, nests laid near the shacks were shifted to safer locations and guarded with the help of volunteers and community members. On January 31, 2008, a turtle arrived on the beach in the evening and laid eggs under the protection of volunteers, departmental staff and shack owners.
The cooperation and participation of various stakeholders has been very effective. The Department and CEE are pleased with the participation and direction in which turtle conservation is directed and intend to use this experience as a stepping stone to evolve better conservation strategies in future.
The coastline of Andhra Pradesh is one of the important sporadic nesting habitats of olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and is believed to form part of the migratory route of the turtles that nest in Orissa (Tripathy et al., 2003). The species is known to nest on the northern Andhra Pradesh coast (Rajasekhar and Subba Rao, 1993; Priyadarshini, 1998) which encompasses three districts namely Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam.
Hundreds of olive ridley carcasses were found washed ashore during the first week of January 2008 at Thikkavanipalem in Parawada mandal, about 45 kilometers from Visakhapatnam city. Conservationists and local fisherfolk suspect that the mass mortality of olive ridleys could be due to two reasons: indiscriminate discharge of effluents from the industrial units located in the vicinity of the coast and non-use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). Fisheries related mortality is a major threat to the species with most of the deaths recorded in the month of January. Depredation of eggs by humans and feral animals is also wide spread in the region.
Incidental capture in trawl and gill nets is a major cause of marine turtle mortality along the east coast of India (Rajagopalan et al., 1996). In fact, fisheries related mortality is usually higher along the northern coast of Andhra Pradesh, which is probably due to the higher density of turtles in the region. The indigenous TED developed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Kochi is being promoted in Andhra Pradesh by the State Institute of Fisheries Technology, Kakinada (Bhavani Sankar & Ananth Raju, 2003). However, fisherfolk have not been using TEDs and the operation of mechanised trawlers in the offshore waters during the breeding season is rampant.
A team comprising of Forest Department officials, local wildlife conservation NGOs and volunteers visited the spot and collected water samples for tests following the allegations that industrial pollution is one of the main reasons for turtle mortality. A memorandum was submitted to the State Forest Department and the Ministry of Environment and Forests by the local NGOs seeking scientific investigation and detailed inquiry to establish the reasons and to take appropriate action.
The control measures which can be taken up by the authorities to reduce fisheries related mortality include:
Olive ridley turtles are categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2002) and are included in Schedule I of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. This coast may also serve as an intermediate developmental habitat for sub-adult ridley turtles and for juvenile and sub-adult green turtles Chelonia mydas (Tripathy et al., 2003). Although awareness campaigns in the form of ‘Turtle Walks ‘are organised every year by the local NGOs and university students, involvement of all stakeholders in sea turtle conservation is vital for securing the long term survival of the species and the coastal habitats.
Bhavani Sankar, O. & M. Ananth Raju. 2003. Implementation of the Turtle Excluder Device in Andhra Pradesh. Kachhapa 8: 2-5.
Priyadarshini, K.V.R. 1998. Status and nesting of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) along the Northern Andhra coast. CAPART, WWF-India.
Rajagopalan, M., E. Vivekanandan, S. Krishna Pillai, M. Srinath & A. Bastian Fernando. 1996. Incidental catch of sea turtles in India. Marine Fisheries Information Service T & E Series 143: 8-16.
Rajasekhar, P.S. & M.V. Subba Rao. 1993. Conservation and management of the endangered olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz) along the northern Andhra coastline. B.C.G Testudo 3(5): 35-53.
Tripathy, B., K. Shanker & B.C. Choudhury. 2003. Important nesting habitats of olive ridley turtles along the Andhra Pradesh coast of eastern India. Oryx 37: 454-463.
Over three decades of monitoring along the Chennai coast and surveys along the rest of the Tamil Nadu coast have shown that this coast is a significant sporadic nesting ground for olive ridley turtles (Shanker, 2003; Bhupathy, 2007). These turtles use the sandy beaches along the coast to nest between January and March each year. After the December 2004 tsunami, the World Bank funded an Emergency Tsunami Reconstruction Project (ETRP) in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. One of the measures implemented at great cost is the raising of ‘bio-shield’ shelterbelts on the beaches, primarily of Casuarina, an exotic fast growing species. The plantations covering over one third of the Tamil Nadu coast have been established up to the high-tide line, in the process eliminating large stretches of sea turtle nesting habitat.
The ETRP shelterbelts have been established by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department (TNFD), ironically the very agency charged with protecting the olive ridley, a Schedule I species under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Some government officials acknowledged unofficially that planting Casuarina right up to the high-tide line may not have been advisable, but since the acreage available for planting was grossly overestimated, officers at the field level were forced to plant wherever possible.
The Casuarina plantations have ostensibly been raised to protect fishing communities and other humans living on the coast, from tsunamis and cyclones. Our surveys show that most of these communities have insisted that no trees be planted on the beachfront facing their habitations, as that would impede their progress to the sea and obscure their view of it. The irony of the ETRP shelterbelt project is that the only areas that actually need some form of protection are the ones devoid of plantations.
Immediately after the tsunami, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) did a rapid assessment of the efficacy of shelterbelts in tsunami impact mitigation. Their study, supported by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department states the following with regard to coastal Casuarina plantations:
“Starting of casuarina plantations right from the high tide line is one of the serious concerns relating to shelterbelt plantation along the coastal areas. This may have serious implications on the ecology of the coastal areas, sometimes even on the wildlife.
Many of the sandy beaches are utilised by sea turtles as nesting grounds and it has been reported in many places, that raising casuarina very close to the sea prevents nesting by sea turtles. Different species of crabs live in different vertical zones near the high tide line and planting of casuarinas close to the high tide line would also affect the niches of these crabs.
Most importantly, sandy beach supplies sand to the littoral current, which runs parallel to the shoreline. This current system, in combination with wind-induced waves, takes away sand from one place and deposits it in another area. Since this process takes place simultaneously all along the coast, a balance is achieved between removal and supply of sand in a given place and this balance prevents sea erosion. If shelterbelt plantations are raised from the high tide line, the supply of sand to the littoral current would be reduced or stopped (due to sand binding property of the plantation) and to compensate this, current and waves would remove large amounts of sand from other areas, leading to erosion in those areas.
In order to avoid such environmental problems it is recommended, on the basis of the above study, that shelterbelt plantations should start at least 50 to 75 m away from the high tide line.”
This gives rise to questions that neither the Government nor the World Bank has answered satisfactorily:
Casuarina plantations very close to the high tide line may cause severe, irreparable erosion of the entire coastline in the long run, affecting not only turtles and other species but also fishing communities and coastal residents. The problem can only be resolved by removing Casuarina plantations up to at least 50 m from the high-tide line.
We recommend the following urgent steps:
Letter to the World Bank
The SSTCN has sent a letter with the above details to the World Bank, requesting them to take suitable action as suggested. The letter has been sent to Robert B. Zoellick, President and Chief Executive, The World Bank, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington DC, 20433, USA.
The letter is copied to Greenpeace, Wildlife Protection Society of India, Nature Conservation Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature, Kalpavriksh, Wildlife First, Sanctuary Asia, Centre for Science and Environment, Reef Watch, Bombay Natural History Society, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Care Earth, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, and other NGOs and media organisations.
Following the letter to the World Bank, there was a call from the WB office in Delhi and a visit to Chennai by Mr Christoph Pusch Regional Coordinator South Asia, Hazard Risk Management and Ms Ranu Sinha Consultant, Hazard Risk Management. The two of them met SSTCN members and were to meet the Forest Department the next day. During the meeting with SSTCN, promises were made to immediately make arrangements to remove the casuarina in the 50m closest to the high tide line, but after that and till the time of printing this report, there has been no word at all from the World Bank.
Bhupathy, S. 2007. Monitoring of marine turtles along the Kerala and Tamil Nadu coasts. Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter 5: 1-9.
Shanker, K. 2003. Thirty years of sea turtle conservation on the Madras coast: A review. Kachhapa 8: 16-19.
Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) has been working on nature conservation, nature education, and nature research since 1992 in Maharashtra, India. In 2002, SNM started a conservation programme for marine turtles in Velas, a tiny village on the northernmost boundary of Ratnagiri District in Maharashtra. In its first year, SNM undertook protection of nests in one village and successfully protected 50 nests. Within a short period, SNM has spread its protection activities to the entire coast of Maharashtra: about 720 km. In the last five years, SNM has protected 214 nests and released more than 9000 hatchlings.
To make turtle conservation sustainable, SNM is trying to involve other local NGOs and volunteers. This year, SNM is carrying out marine turtle conservation and awareness by community participation through a project from the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme. The project is being carried out in five villages in Ratnagiri District. The project includes hatchery management, nest monitoring, development of a long term conservation action plan, and development of alternative income sources to reduce pressure on natural resources.
Table 1: Number of villages covered & number of nests protected
SNM has arranged various types of awareness programmes including villager meetings, exhibitions, and slide shows. SNM has distributed hand bills and stickers about the importance of turtles and the need to take steps for their conservation. SNM has placed billboards at nesting sites and on well known tourist beaches. In addition, SNM has sent letters to the village panchayats, requesting them to promote sea turtle conservation in the respective villages.
To encourage turtle conservation, SNM decided to award a ‘Kasav Mitra Puraskar‘ (Turtle Friend Award). SNM’s first Kasav Mitra Puraskar was awarded in 2004-2005 to Mr. Nandakumar Patil from Velas. The 48 year old Mr. Patil is the head of the village Panchayat. The award included Rs. 1000 and a certificate. In 2005-2006 an award for NGOs was also instituted. For the year 2007-2008, the Kasav Mitra Puraskar was awarded to Mr. Charuhas Tipnis, Mahad and to Ratnadurga Mountaineers, Ratnagiri.
SNM has also published a booklet ‘Marine Turtle Protection and Conservation’ in Marathi and distributed it free of cost to volunteers and persons interested in marine turtle conservation. This booklet contains brief information about marine turtles, threats and guidelines for their protection and conservation. The booklet was also translated into Gujarati and distributed to NGOs and volunteers in Gujarat.
In the last five years, egg poaching has been found to be the major threat to sea turtles. The number of dead turtles on the coast appears to be increasing in number. SNM is trying to get strong support from government authorities. As a result of these efforts,the Maharashtra State Wildlife Advisory Board has accepted a proposal regarding conservation of marine turtles in June 2007. The action plan for conservation includes hatchery management, active participation of the Forest Department, strong action against poachers, and training for forest staff.
Uttara Kannada has a coastline of about 170 km between Karwar to the north and Bhatkal to the south. All along this coast, the beach is divided by hillocks that reach the sea. Few beaches are devoid of human settlement, and in Karwar, the beach has been reduced because of developmental activities taken up by the Indian Navy.
During 2006-2007, the Canara Green Academy conducted a survey to locate sea turtle nesting beaches. Coastal villages between Bhatkal and Kumta and also between Gangavali and Belekeri in Ankola were visited to collect information on sea turtle nesting. Some important potential nesting beaches were identified; the main villages are Talmakki and Bailoor near Murdeshwar, Apsarakonda near Honavar, Haldipur and Dhareshwar between Honavar and Kumta, Baad-Kagal in Kumta and Gokarna-Gangavali beaches.
In all these areas, the olive ridley nests most frequently, and the main nesting season is from October to January. The eggs are consumed and turtle meat is also sold in the fish market. It was felt that raising the awareness of local villagers was of utmost importance. Field workers were employed to conduct group meetings and door to door awareness campaigns. Pamphlets were distributed and large billboards were erected in the villages near nesting beaches. These campaigns were conducted from October to January which is the main nesting season along this coast.
The campaign started to yield results from the month of November. Phone calls from villagers about the poaching of sea turtles started to arrive. Our field level workers then went to these villages to collect the eggs from the poachers. The Karnataka Forest Department officials are also helping in this activity. Combining our efforts has had good results in these areas between Bhatkal and Gokarna-Gangavali.
Canara Green Academy has set up sea turtle hatcheries at Apsarkonda, Dhareshwar and Kadle in association with the Karnataka Forest Department, and maintains the hatchery at Gangavali established by Sri Anand Udar, the earlier Range Forest Officer of Hiregutti. All the eggs collected from the poachers are relocated at these hatcheries. A total of 2939 eggs have been collected during this year.
Table 1: Collection of nests for hatcheries along the Uttara Kannada coast
All the collections thus far are from poachers. The eggs that remain undisturbed by poachers are not even provided protection. Sea turtle nesting is sporadic in these areas and hence in-situ protection is difficult and costly. The eggs collected from poachers may not have high hatching success as they may have been collected a day or two after nesting; recovery of eggs from poachers may be one or two days after collection; some of the eggs are recovered from fish markets and handling may affect development. Despite these caveats, at least some hatchlings will emerge from these nests and it is hoped that our efforts will reduce the incidence of poaching.
The Pakistan Wetlands Programme and Pakistan State Oil Company Limited celebrated the World Wetlands Day 2008 by organising a seminar in Gawadar, a town on the Makran Coast. The seminar on tagging of marine turtles was held under the Regional Programmes of Pakistan Wetlands Programme. The local community, heads of local educational institutes and representatives from local government and partner organisations attended the seminar.
Pakistan State Oil donated the first transmitter to the Pakistan Wetlands Programme, which is titled “PSO TURTLE”. The transmitter will be put on a green turtle in next few months, when turtles start arriving on the coast of Makran. Mr. Waqar Ahmad, a representative from the Pakistan State Oil also participated in the seminar.
Mr. Ahmad Khan briefed the participants about the Pakistan Wetlands Programme, objectives of the satellite tagging and its procedure. The Chief Guest of the occasion, Mr. Majid Sohrabi, appreciated the effort and stressed for more efforts to ensure the sustainability of the Makran Coast and its wetland resources not only for the current but also for future generations.
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