In the last few days, multiple reports of turtles dying due to the oil spill near Ennore port had appeared. Activists, however, have said that the turtles found dead and covered in oil were not killed by the oil spill. However, they caution, this does not mean that turtle and other marine life will not be affected in the next few days.
Speaking to The News Minute, Shravan Krishnan, an animal rights activist, said, “There are no deaths of turtles due to the oil yet, we have only seen dead turtles washing ashore. They were already dead due to trawling and other factors. Oil was just sticking on the turtles, but we cannot conclude anything,” he said.
An Indian Coastal Guard personnel had also made a similar assessment, denying that turtles died due to the oil spill. He had noted, “The oil has spilled over 700 metres with a thickness of 0.5 inches. The fish would not have died as the oil is in the shallow waters. The turtles had died a few days back and not because of the oil spill.”
However, Shravan points out that this does not mean that turtle and other marine deaths due to the oil spill are not now possible in the immediate future. “The marine life very close to the shore will be affected by the oil spill. There are many micro-organisms living near the coast, also crabs and fish, which will be affected by it. The impact will be felt in the next few days when turtle mothers come ashore,” he said.
Image: Crab/ Shravan Krishnan
While adult turtles living in the sea may escape the worst effects of the oil, he points out, nesting turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs are facing a serious threat because the spilt oil is concentrated at the coastline.
“It was pretty clear inside the ocean. Most of the oil has moved up to the coast, we traced oil upto Neelankarai. Turtles might get stuck in the oil or might find it very difficult to reach the shore. During the turtle walk, we usually find many crabs, but we only found one or two crabs and they also had oil all over them,” added Shravan.
The oil spill around Chennai’s Kamarajar Port occurred after two merchant ships collided on January 28. Although initial reports from the authorities had denied any spillage, it later emerged that there had been an oil spill, with some saying that nearly 1 tonne of oil had spilled. Activists have criticised the port authorities for failing to act in a timely and adequate manner to limit the extent of the ecological crisis.