Conservation tourism? Goa shows way - with turtles!

April 27th, 2010 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, April 27 (IANS) Goa’s unique practice of mixing turtle conservation with tourism has potential for successful replication across the Indian coast, says an expert.
Kartik Shanker, president of the International Sea turtle Society (ISTS), praised the Goa model.

“Goa has a unique model. It has managed to mix turtle conservation with tourism, which benefits the local community as well,” Shanker told IANS, adding that turtle conservation could not be viewed in isolation.

“We must use turtle conservation as a flagship to protect coastal habitats like coral reefs and conserve the coastline,” he said. He said communities living along the coast, especially those of traditional fishermen, need to be involved and benefit from the process.

Shanker is also the host of the International Symposium on Marine Turtles (ISMT) being held in Panaji.

According to him, global warming could prove to be a grave threat for turtles, whose gender at the time of birth is defined by temperature.

Elaborating the pattern of turtle presence across India’s winding coastline, Shanker said the eastern coast hogged the lion’s share of India’s turtle population.

“The east coast, especially beaches in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, are seen as nesting sites where turtles come by the thousands. In the West coast, you see turtles in Gujarat and Goa.”

Shanker said the Indian coastline generally saw Olive Ridley and green turtles. Turtles off the Indian coast faced two major threats: mechanised trawler fishing and haphazard development along the coastline.

“Trawling is a concern because a large number of turtles get caught in fishing nets,” Shanker said.

He said rampant development of the coastal areas, especially construction of sea walls by private entrepreneurs and coastal residents to prevent erosion, had proved in recent times to be a death knell for turtles looking for nesting sites.

“The sea walls along the beaches deflect wave energy from the walled stretch of the beach to other unwalled areas, causing erosion there, which discourages turtles from nesting nearby,” said Shanker, who is also a faculty member at the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IIS).

According to him, global warming posed newer challenges for turtle conservation.

“The gender of the turtle depends on the prevalent temperature at the time of hatching. If the temperature is below the pivotal point when the turtle hatches her egg, then the hatchling is a male. A female is born if the temperature is above the pivotal point.”

Global warming could skew the sex ratio of the amphibians.

“If temperatures further soar as a result of global warming, we could see largescale mortality,” he said. “We have embarked on research to study the conservation issue from the global warming perspective.”

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