<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Activists working on conservation efforts of the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles in Chennai are a worried lot after over 40 dead turtles washed ashore over the last 20 days. On Monday alone, 13 bodies were recovered.Volunteers of Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN), that has been carrying out conservation activities on Chennai beaches since 1988, said these figures are limited to the 14-kilometre stretch between Marina Beach and Besant Nagar Beach, which they patrol every night from January to April during the turtle nesting season. Chennai beaches have upto 300 nests and each year the mortality rates are very high.”The nesting season has just begun and we already have 41 dead turtles on the beach,” said SSTCN coordinator Akila Balu.”A majority of these turtles die due to due to drowning after getting stuck in trawling nets. Some also end up losing a flipper or being hit by the propellor,” she said. Volunteers are already worried for what may lie ahead in February, the busiest month for turtles heading towards the beaches to lay eggs. “Fishing nets also threaten the hatchlings when they go back into the sea. There seems to be no concern from the fisheries department towards conservation of these turtles, who have been coming for thousands of years to our beaches,” she said.Trawlers and commercial fishing pose a major threat to these turtles, prompting the Tamil Nadu Government to pass orders last year prohibiting any type of fishing in a radius of five nautical miles around the nesting and breeding sites of ridleys.”Despite the orders one can find these trawlers all over. The fisheries department seems to be a mute spectator as the trawling and commercial fishing is owned by businessmen with strong backings,” said animal activist Shravan Krishnan.The Central Fisheries Department made it mandatory for trawlers to have a Turtle Excluder Device (TED), a small flap-like opening made in the nets so that turtles or dolphins can escape but none of the trawlers have it, said Krishnan.”While studies proved that only a marginal two to four per cent of the catch might escape from the TED, it would immensely help in conservation. However, there has been no action against defaulting trawlers by the government despite NGOs and the even Forest Department putting pressure,” he said.

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Chennai Olive Ridley death toll rises, has activists worried