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National Marine Turtle Action Plan

Considering the need to have a conservation paradigm for marine mega fauna and marine turtles, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has released the  ‘National Marine Turtle Action Plan’ during January 2021.

Background

India has a vast coastline of more than 7,500 km, of which, about 5,400 km belong to Peninsular India and about 2,000 km to the Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep Islands, and with an EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of 2.02 million sq. km. Five species of sea turtles are found in Indian waters. The marine biodiversity including marine turtles in India is one among the richest in the Indian Ocean.

Constitution of India recognizes the need to protect wildlife that include marine life and their environment. The provision under Article 48 A mandates the state to protect, safeguard and improve the environment with the corresponding duty under Article 51 A (g) to the citizen to protect and improve the natural environment. This clearly supports the need to carry out all necessary steps to not only protect but also improve the marine environment.

Marine Turtles in India

The Indian coastal waters supports five species of sea turtles found worldwide. These are the Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). These five species of sea turtles that occur in Indian coastal waters are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

India is home to the largest known nesting population of olive ridley turtles. Except Loggerhead turtles, the remaining four species (Leatherback, Hawksbill, Green and Olive ridley turtles) nest along the Indian coastline and islands of India. About 40,000 to 11,00,000 turtles nest every year on the beaches of India. Number of turtles nesting varies between years and the success of sporadic nests have been observed to decline due to predations and habitat degradation. Numerous direct and indirect pressures arising from various factors adversely impact marine turtle populations and their habitat. This also includes natural disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes and storms

Marine turtles have a major influence on the structure and function of marine biodiversity and play an important role in shaping the behavior and life history traits of prey species and predators that is critical for the sustainability of fisheries in the region. Factors like climate change, unsustainable resource use, marine litter and pollution affect marine turtles and their habitats.

Marine turtles play a variety of ecological roles for maintaining healthy marine habitats like controlling prey populations, supporting coastal vegetation through their hatchlings etc. Their presence is an indicator of healthy marine ecosystems and provide a source of revenue for local communities through tourism. Marine turtles thus present themselves as a key indicator of healthy marine habitats and an opportunity for conservation of associated species.

Despite the immense economic, ecological and cultural values of marine habitats in India, marine mega fauna 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.

Goal

  • Conserve Species, their habitat and reduce negative impacts on survival of marine turtles;
  • Improve the understanding of marine turtles and their habitats, through a coordinated mechanism;
  • Promote Awareness and Education on conservation of marine turtles and their habitats;
  • Enhance livelihoods of coastal communities through promoting sustainable ecotourism; 5. Increase national, regional and international cooperation on marine turtle conservation.

Vision

Create a viable and healthy marine ecosystem for marine turtles and associated species through a coordinated and participatory mechanism to ensure long term survival of marine turtles.

Mission

The Action Plan aims to conserve marine turtles and their habitats for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

Action Plan

With a view to conserve marine turtles, associated species and their habitats, the following action plan is proposed to be adopted at the National and State Government level.

  • To reduce direct and indirect causes of marine turtle mortality, the possible threats to marine turtle populations and their habitats are to be identified, documented and best practice approaches to mitigate those threats to be implemented. It is proposed to undertake management of oceanic marine plastic debris and coastal clean-up for enabling the survival of marine turtles.
  • Protection, conservation and rehabilitation of marine turtle habitats is key for long term survival of marine turtles. Towards meeting this objective, areas of critical habitat such as migratory corridors, nesting beaches, inter-nesting and feeding areas to be identified and managed, while degraded marine turtle habitats are to be rehabilitated.
  • In order to improve the understanding of marine turtle ecology and populations, studies on marine turtles and their habitats targeted towards conservation and management through research, monitoring and information exchange to be taken up through involvement of scientific institutes and universities. It is proposed that proper exchange of scientific and technical information and expertise among scientific institutions, civil society and other agencies is ensured, in order to develop and implement best practice approaches to conservation of marine turtles and their habitats.
  • People’s participation is imperative for successful conservation interventions. It is therefore envisaged to increase awareness of marine turtles and their habitats, conservation needs and threats, amongst the wider public to enhance public participation in conservation activities. Setting up of turtle conservation clubs at taluk or district or state levels, declaration of marine turtle day, conduct special events related to marine turtle conservation are few activities proposed in this direction. In addition, developing alternate livelihood opportunities and better fishing practices for local communities to be encouraged for active participation in conservation efforts that also generate livelihoods like eco-tourism (e.g. turtle tourism). All relevant stakeholders, including local communities should be involved in planning and implementation of conservation and management measures.
  • National, regional and international cooperation is an integral part of marine turtle conservation. The existing mechanisms for cooperation at the sub-regional level to be strengthened to enhance coordination in management of turtle habitats. A web based information resource for marine turtle conservation to be developed, besides creating networks for cooperative management of shared populations, within or across sub-regions, and, where appropriate. Adequate and regular training on marine turtle conservation and management techniques to relevant agencies, individuals and local communities to be provided through identified scientific institutes.
  • To strengthen law enforcement activities, a coordinated effort to be taken up amongst relevant stakeholders

To access the complete action plan, click here.

Source : Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change



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