Kendrapara: The Indian Coast Guard has launched 'Operation Oliva' along the sea waters of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary here as part of its mission to ensure safe mid-sea breeding of Olive Ridley turtles and to intercept intruding fishing vessels.

In a joint effort with the state forest department, the turtle conservation programme is in full swing to keep a vigil on illegal fishing along the turtle concentration zone, Commandant (operation), Deputy Inspector General of Coast Guard, Odisha, Sanjeev Deewan said.

Nearly 40 trawls have been nabbed so far on charge of trespassing into the prohibited sea waters and nearly 250 fishermen have been held for illegal fishing.

The arrested fishermen were handed over to the forest department for prosecution. Last week, as many as 196 fishermen were caught and 24 trawls used by them for fishing were seized, Deewan said.

The Coast Guard has also chalked out a pro-active plan for these marine animals' conservation with round-the-clock vigil, thereby providing adequate protection to the endangered species, he said.

Besides a ship, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has also pressed into service an aircraft for Operation Oliva and is keeping tab on illegal fishing in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, the DIG said.

The Coast Guard has organised interactive sessions with the fishermen community to sensitise them on the pros and cons of the embargo on fishing during the Ridleys' nesting season, Deewan said.

"The patrol exercise for surveillance on trespassing sea-worthy trawls is on as turtles perish in large numbers after getting hit by trawl propellers. Besides, breeding animals get entangled in fishing nets and are asphyxiated to death," he said.

"The coast guard is on alert to check trespassing of vessels. The operation to save turtles is being carried on in a coordinated manner," he said, adding ICG ship Sarojini Naidu is maintaining round-the-clock vigil along the shoreline.

The Coast Guard patrol in turtle congregation sites would remain in force till the turtles finish laying eggs on nesting beaches, the DIG said.