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Some 500 turtles have been found dead in Chennai over the past month according to organizations working towards sea turtle conservation.

Forest ranger David Raj said as much as 83 turtles were found dead over the past two days on the stretch between Marakannam and Marina Beach.

A total of 118 were found on the stretch between Neelankarai and Napier’s Bridge since the beginning of the year, said members of the Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN).

And 251 were found on the stretch between Neelankarai and Marakkanam over the last 25 days, reported the Tree Foundation.

Over 10 turtles were sent to the veterinary college for testing and investigation.

The turtles are found with bulging eyes and swollen necks. Conservationists deduce from this that the turtles are dying from asphyxiation caused by trawlers fishing gear that impede the turtles from reaching the surface to breathe.

“The turtles need to come up to the surface every 30 minutes to breathe. If they get caught in the trawlers, they cannot do this and hence die due to drowning,” says the coordinator of SSTCN Arun.

“Considering that only 5-6% of the dead turtles are washed ashore, the real death toll could be many times higher.”

Arun continue to explain that the rate of egg survival is estimated at just 1 in 1000. “With this rate of survival, the number of turtles we are losing every year is of concern,” said Arun.

Raj said fishermen are being told not fish within 5 km of the shore during turtle season.

“Female turtles on their way to the shore to lay eggs are trapped in fishing nets of mechanised boats, gill nets or ray fishing nets. Most fishermen who find dead turtles in their nets throw them back into the sea,” said Tree Foundation founder-chairperson Supraja Dharini.

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