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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

Winter 2001   —   Sea Turtles Slaughtered

Conservationists were horrified to learn of the slaughter of hundreds of endangered sea turtles, on Indiaís eastern coast this winter. The turtles were making their annual trek to the coastal beaches for nesting and egg laying. Volunteers from the Indian Wildlife Protection Society who arrived on the coast for an annual survey on one November day, counted over 650 dead sea turtles, and those numbers were expected to rise as the number of turtles arriving in the area increases during December & January.

Once again, it is man who is responsible for this carnage. The turtles congregate along the coasts at the start of the nesting season. Trawler nets are set in huge number and the unfortunate turtles get trapped. Fisherman canít be bothered to free the animals in a humane manner, and simply hack the creatures out with knives, axes, whatever is handy. Although the High Court of the State has ordered mechanized fishing trawlers use devices that help turtles escape safely, not one of the trawlers uses them, the Wildlife Society has accused. The endangered turtles are strictly protected under law, yet thousands continue to be killed each year, and the reason is simple: illegal fishing which flourishes in the region.

The law calls for large trawlers to fish 20 kilometers from the coast, but they often venture way closer, up to a mere 90 metres offshore. Turtles congregate at this distance before coming ashore and it is here that the majority of trappings occur. And to worsen the situation, if it could possibly be worse, the Wildlife Society has accused many local politicians of owning many of the trawlers.

(Note:   as of January, the estimated number of turtle deaths had risen to almost 2000)

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