Home to four turtle species — olive ridley turtle, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, and leatherback sea turtle, India has finally outlined a blueprint for the protection and conservation of endangered marine turtles found on its coastal zones.
Even though all the species found on the coastal zones stretching 7,500 km are listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, their populations in the Indian sea waters are under threat.
Infact approximately 61% of worldwide turtle species are either threatened or already extinct, and the sea turtle is no exception as they struggle with pollution and degradation of nesting habitats, which can interfere with their egg-laying. And turtles in the Indian oceans are no exception.
Speaking at the virtual launch event recently, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that both floral and faunal diversity including the marine biodiversity is the beauty of India and we need to conserve it with best possible action and interventions.
The documents ‘Marine Mega Fauna Stranding Guidelines’ and ‘National Marine Turtle Action Plan’ contain ways and means to not only promote inter-sectoral action for conservation but also guide improved coordination amongst the government, civil society and all relevant stakeholders on the response to cases of stranding, entanglement, injury or mortality of marine mammals and also conservation of marine turtles.
Javadekar said, India has rich marine biodiversity along a vast coastline of over 7,500 km. From colorful fish, sharks, including Whale Sharks, turtles and big mammals like whales, dolphins and dugongs to bright corals, marine habitats not only harbor diverse species but also provide resources essential for human wellbeing.
Despite the immense economic, ecological and cultural values of marine habitats in India, marine megafauna species and marine turtles face a wide variety of challenges including stranding and entanglement.
Managing such challenging situations requires coordination, action and people’s participation which would help in the long-term
conservation of marine species and their habitats, he added.
The action plans highlight actions to be taken for handling stranded animals on shore, stranded or entangled animals in the sea or on a boat, management actions for improved coordination, reducing threats to marine species and their habitats.
Also, the plan outlines steps to be taken for rehabilitation of degraded habitats, enhancing people’s participation, advance
scientific research and exchange of information on marine mammals and marine turtles and their habitats. Conserve Species, their habitat and reduce negative impacts on survival of marine turtles.
Concerns about nest predation, plastic pollution, light pollution, habitat degradation, and bycatch (marine creatures that are inadvertently trapped in fishing nets) have been addressed in the policy.
Scientists estimate that to restore wildlife in the ocean, at least 30% of the world’s oceans should be put completely off limits to harmful human activities by 2030, according to a latest report by Greenpeace International.
India is a signatory to the Indian Ocean Sea Turtle Agreement (IOSEA) of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), a United Nations backed initiative.
The latest policy rollout represents India’s step in its conservation push, said a scientist from the Wildlife Institute of india (WII).