1Mangalore Research Centre of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Karnataka, India
2Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, India
On October 3rd 2015 the fisherfolk of Muloor, Udupi District of Karnataka, India, found a hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) entangled in a ghost gillnet and struggling to swim at a depth of 6m around 3km from the shore of Kaup Beach (13º13’25.14”N, 74º44’14.58”E). As they were aware that turtles need to be protected, they brought the turtle to the shore, cut the entangled net and released it back to the sea. The curved carapace length was measured at 65cm and the weight estimated at ~48kg. The hawksbill is a critically endangered sea turtle as per global IUCN listing. In India, hawksbill turtles nest in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and to a lesser extent in Lakshadweep (Andrews et al., 2006). There are no confirmed reports of hawksbill turtles nesting along the Karnataka coast, but fisherfolk have previously reported sighting hawksbill turtles offshore of Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts in Karnataka (Ravi & Rakesh, 2013) and hawksbill turtle carapaces have been found in fishers’ houses in Karnataka (Sharath, 2006).
Infrequent, and not recent, hawksbill turtle nesting has been observed in Maharashtra (Katdare, 2013) but not in Kerala (Dileepkumar and Jaykumar 2002, 2006), states to the north and south of Karnataka respectively. Therefore, this turtle could have been a small breeding female migrating to its nesting beach. Alternatively, it may inhabit the local area; hawksbill turtles have been observed by fishers in Karnataka (Pandit & Soans, 2013). Hawksbill turtles inhabit a wide range of habitats during their adult life, including coastal waters (Baillie & Groombridge, 1996), lagoons, coral reefs, estuaries, and mangrove swamps (Gaos et al., 2012). Off Kaup Beach, there are small rocky shallow islands and mangroves that the turtle could have inhabited until it was tangled in the ghost gillnet. On 20th January 2015, the fishermen of Muloor released three olive ridley turtles similarly trapped in a gillnet.
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Dileepkumar, N. & C. Jaykumar. 2002. Field study and networking for turtle conservation in Kerala – A GOI-UNDP Sea Turtle Project Report. Thanal Conservation Action & Information Network, Trivandrum, India.
Dileepkumar, N. & C. Jaykumar. 2006. Sea turtles of Kerala. In: Marine Turtles of the Indian subcontinent (eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp 137–140. Universities Press, Mumbai, India.
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Katdare, V.D. 2013. Marine turtle habitats in Maharashtra-Distribution, status and threats. In: Marine Turtles Along the Indian Coast. Distribution, Status, Threats and Management Implications (ed. Kurian, A.). Pp 136-154. WWF-India. Available online at assets.wwfindia.org/downloads/turtle_report_web.pdf.
Pandit, R. & R. Soans. 2013. Marine turtle habitats and nesting status in Karnataka. In: Marine Turtles Along the Indian Coast. Distribution, Status, Threats and Management Implications (ed. Kurian, A.). Pp 113-126. WWF-India. Available online at assets.wwfindia.org/downloads/turtle_report_web.pdf.
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