From: Reuters
Published April 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Greenpeace Sounds Alert over Indian Turtle Deaths

NEW DELHI — More than 2,000 endangered Olive Ridley turtles have washed ashore dead in eastern India over the past three months, environmental pressure group Greenpeace said on Tuesday, blaming illegal fishing.

"This will be just a fraction of the population killed every year as many carcasses are never washed ashore," Greenpeace India campaigner Ashish Fernandes said.

He said the deaths along the coast of the state of Orissa were reported by a Greenpeace monitoring team from the Devi region, 100 km (63 miles) east of Bhubaneswar, the state capital.

The group said in a statement that fishing in protected areas of sea continued to kill hundreds of turtles each month as the reptiles were caught in nets or mangled by engine propellers.

The Olive Ridely turtle, which reaches up to 75 cm (2.5 feet) in length and has an olive-green shell in adulthood, is found in coastal regions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Each winter, hundreds of thousands return to the beaches of Orissa to lay their eggs, attracting hundreds of tourists.

"By focusing on (this) wondrous phenomenon ...the (state) forest department may delude itself into believing that these deaths are insignificantly low," Fernandes said.

Greenpeace said that given a low natural survival rate -- only one in 1,000 hatchlings is believed to reach adulthood -- "the inescapable reality is that the turtle population will not survive this rate of attrition".

It warned that if turtles die in their thousands each winter, Olive Ridley numbers could face "total collapse" in a decade.

The Orissa government described the comments as an exaggeration, saying it has cut turtle deaths by educating fishermen, pushing aggressively for the use of nets that allow trapped turtles to escape and enforcing no-fishing rules.

(Additional reporting by Sanjay Jeena in Bhubaneswar)

Source: Reuters

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