Site: Rushikulya site in Orissa
What is your personal relation to the natural coastal or marine site you represent?
In 2010 when I visited Rushikulya at Orissa for my field work was dumbstruck by the gigantic nature of the sea. It was only here that I got to closely observe various coastal elements. Spend hours spading through the water near the shore, flashing my torch light post midnight in the middle of my turtle walks to observe various creatures of which then I had no idea what they were.
During the same visit was my first ride into the sea, saved from being toppled by high waves due to my experienced and dumb boat-driver, I encountered my first huge jelly-fish, porpoises and in the same week I also spotted my first pod of dolphins. Living and working with them brought me close to the fishing community, knowing as well as understanding their knowledge and practices.
The coasts have changed my life and have decided to spend my remaining life working on the coastal areas with the communitites.
What are the specific problems and threats of your natural coastal or marine site?
Rushikulya (Orissa, India) being one of the major mass nesting beach for olive ridleys in India as well as globally gets most of the attention from biologists and conservationists, working on this coast. Due to which there arise conflicts with the livelihood of fishing communities who are intricately dependent on the coastal resources; also with the development of the state itself, it being poorly developed.
There are several threats to the turtle population like fishery-related mortality and depredation of eggs by natural and feral predators. Nesting beaches are threatened by various developmental activities, including aquaculture. Casuarina plantations have adversely affected beaches along the entire coast. Artificial illumination along the coast is also detrimental to turtles and hatchlings.
It is essential to have conservation strategies focusing on community, their livelihood and their interaction with the natural resources. Conservation of turtles or for any coastal issue has to be addressed by the coastal communities for their benefits and for the sustainability of the system.
Why do you think is it important to safeguard your natural coastal or marine site?
The Arribada phenomenon is known to be unique to ridleys. The major mass-nesting rookeries in the world are in La Escobilla (Mexico), Playa Ostional and Playa Nancite (Costa Rica) (Pritchard 1997). The only arribada site outside Central America lies in Orissa, India. The population that nests on the east coast of India is also believed to be the evolutionary source for the recolonisation of the ridleys found across the world (Shanker et al. 2004). These two factors has made the Indian ridleys a unique population and of conservation concern. Rushikulya currently has the most consistent record of arribadas in the last decade. Hence it may contribute significantly to future populations of the olive ridley turtle in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, it is very essential to monitor and safeguard this coast. Moreover, large populations living along the coast are dependent on the natural coastal resources.