20 fishermen held for fishing in prohibited area

Kendrapara: Forest department officials have taken into custody 20 marine fishermen of West Bengal after intercepting a couple of fishing trawlers near Satabhaya coast off the prohibited Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary. The marine fishermen were from Digha coast of the neighbouring state.

After being arrested, they were sent to judicial custody under the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act 1982 on Monday.

Sea patrolling has been stepped up within Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary water territory in view of the annual mass nesting season of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

The arrested fishermen were spotted illegally fishing along the prohibited coastal water territory on two trawlers, official sources said. Apart from 500 kg of fish and fishing implements, VHF sets and other navigation instruments were seized from them.

The operation to stop unlawful trawling to ensure the safety of Olive Ridley turtles is being jointly conducted by coast guard, forest, police and fisheries department after the marine animals began their annual breeding in November 2011. These delicate marine species are expected to invade the beach to lay eggs, a unique natural phenomenon otherwise described as Arribada, in a month`s time.

"The turtle surveillance patrols spotted the vessels near Satabhaya off Gahirmatha coast. The crew members surrendered without offering resistance`, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, said.

State government imposes a ban on fishing activities along a 20 km stretch of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary from 1 November every year. The ban continues till the turtles nest and the hatchlings crawl back to sea.