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Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Kendrapara: Local residents, nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts have expressed doubts on the alertness of the State forest department over the protection measures for Olive Ridley sea turtles and their nesting during the ongoing breeding season at Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in the district.

According to reports, two speed patrolling boats had been deployed for protecting the endangered marine species in 2016. However one of the boats has been out of order due to improper maintenance. Now it has become almost impossible to keep a tab on the illegal fishing activities within 20 km stretch along Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, Rushikulya river mouth and Devi river.

"The arrival of Olive Ridley sea turtles have already started at Gahirmatha. But it seems that the forest department is not at all concerned about their protection. All the speed patrolling boats should be repaired immediately to protect the turtles at the marine sanctuary," said local resident Jagannath Das.

Besides, wildlife enthusiasts have also expressed doubts over the skills of the officers and employees of the forest department deployed in the patrolling.

"The rangers and officers should be trained properly to keep a vigil on the foreign trollers, operated in Gahirmatha. If they don't have the proper skills, it will be very difficult to implement the ban on illegal fishing activities in the area," said Hemanta Rout, President of Turtle Protection Committee.

However the forest department refuted the allegations.

"We are taking all the necessary majors for the safety of the turtles. The damaged speed patrolling boat has been sent for repairing. Besides, the engine power of our departmental Oliva troller is being increased and it will be ready for patrolling work and other operation within next 10 days," said ranger Bikash Ranjan Das.

It is worth mentioning that the State Government on October 30 imposed a seven month ban on fishing within 20 km stretch from the mouths of Dhamara, Devi and Rushikulya rivers to protect the nests of the endangered species. The ban on fishing activities under the provisions of Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation act, 1982 and Wildlife Protection act, 1972 will be in force from November 1 to May 31, 2021.

Use of motor boats, trawlers and mechanised fishing boats has been prohibited along the stretch. However, there will be no restriction on traditional fishing. Sources said, around 10,666 fishermen families, who will be affected by the ban, will be given a monthly financial assistance of Rs 7,500 each.

(Edited by Suryakant Jena)

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