Bhubaneshwar: Animal lovers have been left fuming following the recovery of over 600 dead Olive Ridley turtles in the past couple of days on the beach, which extends from Hukitola to Eakakula in the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, Odisha.

Along with the endangered turtles, two dolphin carcasses had also washed ashore. Officials suspect that these marine animals became the victim of fishing trawlers and nets. 

Despite strict guidelines to protect the Olive Ridley turtles, the mass deaths of the marine animals were reported and this had triggered resentment among animal lovers. According to reports, the turtles were killed either after being hit by fishing trawlers or after getting entangled in nets.

Following the tragic incident, forest officials have started a massive crackdown. They have already arrested around 380 fishermen and seized at least 83 fishing vessels and charged them with illegal fishing. 

However, animal activists claimed that the action came late as hundreds of the endangered animals have already lost their lives. 

Though sea fishing is banned in the area throughout the year as the seawater there is the most conducive habitat for these marine species, several fishing trawlers routinely operate illegally. 

According to the latest state government order, fishing activities were banned within 20 kilometers of marine sanctuary from November 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019 to protect the sea turtles.

The Olive Ridley sea turtles, which are closely related to the critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle, were once the most abundant sea turtle. However, their numbers have declined sharply after the humans started slaughtering them and due to bycatch.

Gahirmatha beach is acclaimed as the world’s largest known nesting ground of the Olive Ridley sea turtles. Last year, during the nesting season (March) an estimated 6.57 lakh female turtles turned up to lay eggs.

However, these turtles, as they start making their way to the shores, often get swept away by fishing trawlers and die. 

Though the Olive Ridley turtles lay about 120 to 150 eggs, the mortality rate is quite high as many hatching never make to the sea.