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.
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.
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.
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.
The Action Plan aims to conserve marine turtles and their habitats for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.
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 access the complete action plan, click here.
Source : Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change