Awareness programs are conducted regularly for fishermen for identification of sea turtles, handling turtles in offshore areas, safe release and data collection on by-catch for conservation purposes. Open discussions and documentary screenings are used as the main tools for this training program.
For the first time in the country’s history, TREE Foundation brought together the trawl boat owners and workers welfare association, the department of Forest and Fisheries and the Indian Coast Guard for ‘Sea Turtle Safe Release’ sticker program, organized at Kasimedu fishing harbor in Chennai where information stickers were distributed and pasted on nearly 2800 trawl boats and 600 artisanal fising boats. As an additional support to the program TREE Foundation has submitted a proposal to the Forest Department for compensating the fishermen for net loss and interrupted fishing effort during the turtle release.
The outcomes of the one day workshop ‘Mission Sea Turtle – To propose viable solutions and strengthen network to mitigate sea turtle mortality and protect associated ecosystems’, are:
This has seen the at-sea mortality reduced by 15% so far based on strandings noted and observations from fishers. Additionally Coastal Security Group guards are also coordinating with STPF for patrol in a number of the villages this season to increase awareness and assist the STPF in their work.
Though protected by law under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 in India, often turtles are not effectively protected due to lack of enforcement and community involvement. By engaging all stakeholders, TREE Foundation is in a position to encourage better involvement in conservation activities among coastal communities and insist upon increased enforcement action against violators of the Act.