Prawn hatcheries near rookery a threat to turtles

Wildlife and environmental activists are worried over the setting up of prawn hatcheries near Rushikulya rookery in Ganjam district of Odisha, a major nesting site of endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

According to Ravindranath Sahu of Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC), construction work of one such hatchery is nearing completion near Kantiagada village. According to locals, more private companies proposed establishment of prawn hatcheries on this coast near the rookery. Most of them are proposed within 500 metres of the coast.

In 1998, a similar attempt had been made for establishment of a prawn hatchery near Gokharkuda village. However, following opposition from wildlife and environmental activists, the hatchery was closed.

Scientist of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Bivash Pandav, who had played a major role in conservation of Olive Ridley nesting site, said it was an irony that prawn hatcheries were again being allowed in this most preferred nesting area of Olive Ridley turtles of the eastern coast.

Coordinator of Operation Kachhap, an organisation involved in protection of Olive Ridley turtles, Biswajit Mohanty said their organisation decided to make a detailed on-the-spot examination of the hatcheries coming up in the area.

Mr. Pandav said over two decades, Rushikulya rookery coast attracted endangered Olive Ridley turtles to nest. Yet the State government has not come up with a proper coastal zone management plan for this coastline due to which such hatcheries are coming up in the area.

This scientist of the WII is of the opinion that light pollution caused by the prawn hatcheries would have an adverse effect on the hatching of Olive Ridley eggs. Increased human activity near the coastline due to the prawn hatcheries would also have impact on mother turtles, which come to this coast to nest. ‘The mother turtles may start avoiding this coast for nesting after a few years,” he added.

Environmental activists also feel the prawn hatcheries would cause pollution. They would draw saline water from sea and would release the used saline water into the sea or to the Palur canal that connects Chilika lake with sea.

The used water from prawn hatcheries would contain ample amount of antibiotics and other chemicals which would affect the fish population and may also affect the habitat of Olive Ridleys that stay in sea near this coast for mating before their nesting season.

Local fishermen are also worried about these prawn hatcheries as they would affect their fish catch in the long run, said Mr Sahu.

Content Courtesy: The Hindu

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