Fishemen urge govt to redraw sanctuary limits

Kendrapara: Voicing protest over loss of livelihood stakes due to prolonged ban on marine fishing along Gahirmatha sanctuary, traditional fishermen from Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts have sought redrawing of the demarcated sanctuary limits.

Such a step would provide much needed boost to beleaguered traditional sea fishermen to carry out the fishing lawfully. The traditional fishermen with their country-made vessel are not equipped to venture into deep-sea turtle concentration zones. As they cause no harm to breeding turtles, prohibition terms and conditions need to be relaxed for these impoverished sections. Fishing ban should remain in force for the deep-sea trawls who are responsible for turtle mortality, the fishermen?s body said in a memorandum to the state government.

We do not fully oppose turtle-conservation-induced fishing prohibition programme. But it has to be revamped and the prohibitions measures need a re-look for protecting larger interest of thousands of economically backward marine fishermen communities, said Narayan Haldar, president, Odisha Traditional Fish workers Association.

Both state and central government are insensitive to the plight of fishermen community. And by draconian measures, government agencies are seemingly hell-bent to wipe out traditional marine fishermen, Haldar charged.

The marine fishermen in these parts are reduced to abject poverty following enforcement of 7-month-long (1 November-31 May) fishing ban with a view to ensure the safety of turtles. The government had constituted a task force headed by agriculture productivity commission to award compensation to fishermen for the loss of livelihood. Nothing has come out of the much-publicized task force adding to the woes of impoverished fishermen, he rued.

Though the World Bank funded Integrated Costal Zone Management Programme (ICZMP) has got underway for compensating the livelihood loss during the ban period, majority of jobless fishermen are left uncovered under the programme.

Hardly 3,000 families have reaped the benefits of alternate livelihood support while there are about 20,000 traditional marine fishermen left nothing to do following the seven-month sea-fishing prohibition, the fish workers union stated.

Demarcated line for prohibiting fishing should be redrawn and country-made fishing vessels which could go up to 10 Km seaward voyage should be given safe passage. As the traditional fishermen do not venture into deep-sea, their livelihood should be protected as they are not responsible for turtles? mortality, said Tushar Kati Sardar, secretary of the fish workers union.

Among other things, demands of traditional marine fishermen included award of Rs 1,000 monthly compensatory allowance to each family during lean period, provisions for low-cost housing scheme, extending subsidized financing facility.