Maharashtra, on the west coast of India has a coastline of 720 km and Goa, a small neighbouring state to the south, has a coastline of 160 km. Four species of sea turtles are found in Maharashtra: hawksbill, green, olive ridley and leatherback turtles. Green turtles and olive ridleys are known to nest in Maharashtra in small numbers. Goa has records of three species of sea turtles: olive ridley, leatherback and green turtles. Nesting of olive ridley and leatherbacks in Goa has been recorded in the past, but recent records indicate the nesting of only olive ridleys. Past studies on sea turtles in India have focused mainly on the east coast, and very little information on occurrence and nesting sites on the west coast exists.
Based on information received from a survey carried out in 2000 along the five coastal districts of the state, there are confirmed reports of the occurrence of olive ridleys, green turtles, leatherbacks and hawksbills. The olive ridley is the most common species, followed by green turtles and leatherbacks, while hawksbills are relatively rare. The survey also reported sporadic nesting from all sites along the Maharashtra coast. According to the local fisherfolk and trawl workers, olive ridleys are seen throughout the year in the sea and recent sightings have been reported from most landing sites. Olive ridley turtles in nearshore waters frequently get entangled in fishing nets.
The occurrence of green turtles has been reported along the entire coast of Maharashtra, but there are unconfirmed reports of nesting from only a few localities. Sightings are mostly reported by trawl boat workers, who say that the turtles are associated with rocky areas where they feed on algae. Leatherbacks are uncommon in Maharashtra with sporadic sightings being reported along the entire coast and old nesting reports from two localities. Sightings of this species are mostly reported by workers on trawlers while fishing in deep sea. Fisherfolk from Kelus, Achara and Malwan in Sindhudurg districts have reported recent sightings of this species at sea. Hawksbills also appear to be rare. Some locals of Khavane reported having seen this species ten years ago, identifying the species from photographs during the 2000 survey. Trawler workers from Malwan and Ratnagiri have also claimed to have seen this species in these waters.
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Nesting species: olive ridley, leatherback (rare)
Non-nesting species: green
Olive ridleys, greens and leatherbacks have been reported in Goa. Olive ridleys are common, but sightings of green turtles and leatherbacks are sporadic. Except for some reports of nesting of leatherbacks along the 2 km stretch of beach at Morjim (a small village in northern Goa), all other records have been of olive ridleys. The main nesting beaches in Goa are at Morjim and Kerim in North Goa and Galgibaga and Agonda in South Goa.
The threats that sea turtles face along the Maharashtra and Goa coastline include poaching, incidental catch in fishing nets and developmental activity along the coast. Poaching of eggs has been found to occur in many coastal villages of Maharashtra and on non-protected beaches in Goa. The killing of adult turtles does not occur very regularly and this has been attributed mainly to religious beliefs. Like in other parts of the country, incidental catch usually occurs in trawl nets and trawl boat owners are either unaware of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) or are disinclined to using them.
Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra is densely populated and polluted. The main threat to sea turtles here is from developmental activities like the construction of new buildings and coastal illumination. The location of many industries along the coast also adds the threat of oil spills and chemical pollution. Most sites in Mumbai and parts of Thane and Raigad districts have not witnessed the nesting of turtles in the last five years. The beaches of Goa are prime tourist destinations and are usually highly populated; in fact the tourist season lasts from October to May which encompasses the sea turtle nesting season.
Compared to Maharashtra, there is greater general awareness of sea turtles amongst locals in Goa due to media exposure and awareness activities carried out by local organisations. These activities have gained active support from the Goa Forest department. The department has initiated a sea turtle conservation movement, with the help of local people, by protecting nesting sites of turtles in some areas. The department deploys two forest guards and some volunteers to assist them. Their duty involves locating nests, in situ protection and maintenance of data on nesting.
Source: Giri, V. & N. Chaturvedi. 2006. Sea turtles of Maharashtra and Goa. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 147–155. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Bhaskar, S. 1981. Sea turtle survey of the Goa coast. WWF-India. 4 p.
Kar, C.S. & S. Bhaskar. 1982. Status of sea turtles in the eastern Indian ocean. In: Biology and conservation of sea turtles (Ed. Bjorndal, K.). Pp. 365–372. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington D.C.
Giri, V. 2000. A preliminary survey of sea turtles along the coast of Maharashtra and Goa. Kachhapa 3: 5–6.
Kutty, R. 2000. Turtles and tourists – A coastal village in Goa shows the way. Kachhapa 3: 3–5.
Giri, V.B. 2001. Survey of marine turtles along the coast of Maharashtra and Goa. A GOI-UNDP Sea Turtle Project Survey Report. Bombay Natural History Society. 18 p.
Giri, V. & N. Chaturvedi. 2003. Status of marine turtles in Maharashtra, India. Kachhapa 8: 11–15.
Giri, V. & N. Chaturvedi. 2006. Sea turtles of Maharashtra and Goa. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 147–155. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Rahamani, A., V. Giri, V. Katdare & D. Fernandes. 2006. The status of sea turtle populations on the Maharashtra and Goa coasts of India. Bombay Natural History Society. 17 p.
Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, Chiplun
Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai
Center for Environment Education, Panjim