Do tons of concrete have anything at all to do with turtle conservation? Possibly. Sovakar Behera has quietly been building artificial reefs to install in the near-shore marine habitats close to Devi Beach in Orissa— a stunning, golden beach along the Indian Coastline (the lack of crowds and tidal backwash places it as high on the must-experience list as the Andaman Islands).
His reasons for artificial reefs are simple. First, illegal trawler nets do not get on with them (e.g., nets can easily get stuck, torn, or broken). And second, the reefs seem to attract fish—and (arguably) increase fish productivity.
Artificial reefs are placed on the seafloor, typically in near-shore ocean habitats, where they can provide some of the features of natural reefs. They also act as “antitrawling devices” and have been installed in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea to restore oceanic habitats and fisheries in areas suffering from over-fishing.
Soft-spoken about his goals, Behera is keen on implementing such methods in the waters near Devi. He was trained in sea turtle monitoring by Bivash Pandav (from Wildlife Institute of India), the ecologist who put Rushiluliya on the world map of arribada events (sea turtle mass nesting events). Later, Behera founded Green Life Rural Association, a non-profit, while he continued his turtle conservation and monitoring work. He was instrumental in setting up a sea turtle hatchery in nearby Konark.
Come turtle nesting season, he and his team members are out on turtle patrols on most nights.
Outside the season, the reef installation activities propel them through choppy open water where the sight of trawlers has become increasingly common. BBC film crews recently documented the man from Devi who speaks for sea turtles and is convinced his new wave of structures can protect their aquatic underworld.
More on the Konark Hatchery in “Born To Dive” at http://www.seaturtlesofindia.org/blog/