Seven arrested for fishing near Gahirmatha

Kendrapara: Seven fishermen were arrested on charge of intruding into prohibited Gahirmatha sea coast as fishing activities are banned in the area in view of turtles` breeding season. The trawler used for illegal sea fishing was seized while the arrested fishermen were forwarded to jail custody under the provisions of Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation act and Wildlife Protection Act.

This is the first case of arrest of fishermen on charge of violating the ban enforced since November 1. The intruders, all from Balasore district, were on a deep-sea trawler vessel and were illegally fishing along the prohibited coastal water territory when a forest patrol vessel intercepted them on Saturday. The Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Division, Divisional Forest Officer, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra said "the turtle surveillance patrols spotted the vessels near Satabhaya-Chinciri Island off Gahirmatha coast where concentration of breeding turtles is pronounced."

"The arrested marine fishermen who hailed from Balasore district were in possession of mono-filament which often leads to death of breeding turtles due to entanglement," the DFO said. The state government has clamped fishing ban along the 20 km stretch of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in view of the ensuing mass nesting of endangered Olive Ridley marine turtles.

The imposition of prohibition was in accordance with sections 2,3,4 of Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA). Rise in mortality rate of mating turtles along the coastal water surface led to the clamping of prohibition as the gill nets used by the trawlers prove to be messenger of death for breeding turtles.

The mute species, accorded as schedule-1 animal under wildlife protection act for its highly threatened status, get entangled in the nets for prolonged period and die of asphyxiation. The turtles also perish in large number after getting hit by the fast moving propeller of the fishing trawlers, forest personnel pointed out.?

"To keep tab on trawler intrusion, the forest department has set up 16 ?watch and vigil? camps. Sixty-five forest personnel are maintaining round-the-clock vigil to stop trawl intrusion and create hospitable environment for the marine animals.

"The patrolling exercise is going on in a coordinated manner with coast guard (Paradip), state marine fisheries and marine wing of state police lending helping hand in the annual turtle conservation drive," the DFO said.