Legend has it that ancient philosopher Fu Hsi was sitting on the banks of the Lo River in northern China when a turtle emerged from the quite water. Stirred from his quite meditation, Fu Hsi was drawn to this serene creature. As he examined the turtle's shell he saw the perfect world – heaven, earth, fire, water, mountain, lake, wind and thunder reflected on the orderly markings of the turtle.
From this simple exchange, the ancient philosophy of Feng Shui, or the balance of life, was born. Hindu mythology regards the turtle as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the protector. There are a number of stories spread across the various scriptures about turtles. Yet, these harmless creatures are today on the brink of extinction. Thanks to the activities of us humans! Seriously threatened by illegal mechanized fishing, over a lakh turtles have been killed in the last 13 years, along the Orissa coast alone.
Dead Olive Ridley turtles are spotted in large numbers at Garihmata, the Devi and Jatadhar river mouths, Harishpur, Chilika coast and Puri. These endangered species nests at three major rookies in Orissa, of which Garihmata is the largest rookery in the world today with over 1,00,000 nesting turtles. However in the recent past nesting at this place declined steadily. According to Wildlife Society of Orissa while 2,30,000 turtles nested in this area in 2006, this year the total nesting was just 1,40,000 and things are likely to get worse.
Much of the decline of the nesting population can be attributed to illegal trawl fishing operations, particularly shrimp trawling, in the near shore waters of Gahirmat and other coastal areas of Orissa. Infact, shrimp trawling has been identified as the biggest cause of sea turtle mortality in the world.
Mechanized trawling has not only endangered the turtles, but also the lifestyle of the artisanal fishing community. Hundreds of fishing boats from Kharnasi, Jamboo, Talchua, Dhamra and Kasaphal operate daily inside the marine sanctuary without any restrictions. Rampant poaching of fresh water turtles also adds to the steady decline. This is found in rivers like Mahanadi, Brahmani, Baitarani etc. The trade is underground and most of it goes to the Kolkata market.