DIANA FERNANDES | NT
MARGAO: Water sports activities have been posing a threat to marine life along Goa’s beaches, as 11 dolphins and over 15 turtles have been found dead in the last six months along the coast.
Puja Mitra, founder of ‘Terra Conscious’, which has been part of an initiative to help save marine mammals, attributes the deaths of marine animals to the increased tourist activities along the state shores.
“With the rising vessel traffic, and boats moving at higher speeds, such fatalities can be expected: turtles swim slowly and may find it difficult to move out of the way of a speeding boat,” she says.
During the period nine injured turtles were rescued.
The programme was launched in July 2017, bringing together the forest department, the lifeguard organisation Drishti and Terra Conscious to conserve the marine species.
The most of the dead dolphins were humpback dolphins and finless porpoise, while Olive Ridley has been the highest casualty among the dead turtles.
The dead and injured turtles are usually found with their shells cracked open or split into two parts, which points to a possibility that the death was caused by a zooming boat.
A special response protocol for citizens has been launched as part of the initiative to conserve the marine mammals. As per the response protocol, if anybody sees a stranded marine animal (alive or dead) on the beach then the person can contact the lifeguard tower on the beach by sending a photograph via WhatsApp to 91-8308600699, or they can contact the forest department on 0832-2228772 (North Goa) or 0832-2750246 (South Goa).
Lifeguards and forest officials have been trained on how to respond to an emergency call.
Follow-up action is taken depending on the physical status of the animal – whether it is alive, injured or dead.
Speaking on the rescue programme, Drishti general manager (training) Lalit Negi says lifeguards are the first responders and hence are in the best position to meet an eventuality.
“Drishti lifeguards are the frontline responders to such cases and can assist the forest department in rescuing stranded marine animals. The training sessions help them in handling the stranded animals and disposal of any carcasses washed ashore. Also, the information collected by the lifeguards and the forest department will provide a baseline for a scientific study into the threats faced by marine life,” he explains.
Mitra says the increasing water sports activities have been a bane to marine life in the state.
“Goa’s water sports policy states that there should not be motorised sports near the shores as they are hubs for turtles. But the rule is never enforced. Instead, the government is planning giving a big-push to water sports, and wants to set up yachting and cruise terminals which will spell doom to marine life. Hence we must take stringent measures and develop a marine conservation strategy for the state,” she said.