A number of laws govern sea turtles and the habitats that they use. The Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972) lists all species of marine turtles in Schedule I, thereby offering them the highest degree of protection. Sea turtles and their habitats are also affected by other coastal laws and policies including fisheries related laws and those that pertain to offshore regions. Individual states have also enforced state-specific fisheries laws, some in keeping with the need to conserve marine turtles. In Orissa for example, the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act (1982) and Rules (1983) prohibits all mechanised fishing within 5 km of the Orissa coastline. It also prohibits mechanized fishing within 20 km of the coast along the Devi River mouth and Rushikulya from January to May each year, during the breeding and nesting season of the olive ridley turtles that visit these shores. The 1997 declaration of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary prohibits all mechanised fishing within 20 km of the 35 km stretch Gahirmatha coast.
Click on the links below to download the pdf versions of the following laws:
A common criticism of the failure of such laws to provide actual protection to marine turtles is that implementation of a law often falls far short of the provisions for protection. They also do not adequately reconcile the conflicts of interests between various stakeholders that are affected by its enforcement. For example, in some states, the enforcement of strict fishing regulations has provided some respite to marine fauna while jeopardizing the livelihoods of fisherfolk. In another context, legislation concerned with development (and it’s regulation) along the coast has often allowed for structural and other changes along the coast with adverse impacts on shoreline habitats. For laws that contain adequate provision for protection, the lack of proper implementation is attributed to a variety of reasons: the lack of capacity in enforcement agencies, the lack of clarity for stakeholders about the regulations and the lack of dialogue between stake holders and enforcement agencies.
Under international law, India is a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). CITES regulates international trade on sea turtles and their products but does not protect habitat or control other threats to sea turtles. And according to the CMS, all seven species of sea turtles require international cooperation for their conservation. But here again, conservationists feel that not enough provision has been made for effective protection and conservation, and that the focus on conserving habitats and addressing sustainable use of marine resources is far from adequate.