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Status of marine turtles in the Indian Ocean








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    Status of marine turtles in the Indian Ocean 2013
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    Marine turtles along the Indian coast: Distribution, status, threats and management implications 2013
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    India has a coastline of more than 8000 km which is rich in biodiversity. Apart from sustaining fishing grounds, India’s coastal waters and beaches provide foraging and nesting sites for a variety of marine species, including sea turtles. Five species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands. These are the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the Leatherback (Dermochelys cor iacea) turtles. Except the Loggerhead, the remaining four species nest along the Indian coast. Though many of the ecological interconnections influencing sea turtle behavior and biology remain unclear, it is known that sea turtles occupy a unique position within the food web. They consume an assortment of prey, including puffer fish, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, sea grasses, and algae. The unusual life cycle of the animal plays a vital role in transportation of nutrients from the highly prod uctive marine habitats such as sea-grass beds to energy-poor habitats like sandy beaches. This helps reverse the usual flow of nutrients from land to sea. Threats to marine turtles in India are many, and varied. Some of the major threats include unplanned beach development (including ports, lighting, tourism and plantations), by-catch mortality (in trawl nets and gill nets), weak enforcement of fisheries and Protected Area regulations and, to a limited extent, killing of turtles for meat and the poaching of eggs. The coastal state of Odisha on the eastern coast of India experiences one of the world’s largest mass nestings or arribada of the Olive Ridley turtle during the months of October to April. Three of the world’s major mass nesting beaches for this species are located in Odisha, supporting a nesting population of probably more than half a million Olive Ridleys, making this one of the most critical conservation areas for this species globally. However, there are other significant turtle populations in India, which also need to be protected and which are less known. This initiative, which builds on earlier surveys is an attempt to understand the current status, distribution and threats to sea turtles in India. It covers the coastal states of India, but due to limitations of resources, leaves out the islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep. We hope that this report helps to provide an understanding of the current status and trends in turtle distribution along the In dian coast. It also assesses the threats to turtle populations in each state and provides recommendations for their conservation.

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