Fisherman arrested from Bhitarkanika

Kendrapara: Stepping up vigil on fishing in prohibited Bhitarkanika river system in Kendrapara district, forest personnel have arrested 14 fishermen and seized six mechanised vessels.

“The offenders were illegally fishing in Bhitarkanika river system under Kantiakhai forest block of the national park. As fishing is prohibited within the national park, they were arrested by a special squad,” Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra said.

Six mechanized vessels, fishing implements and nets were seized from their possession on Sunday, he said

The fishermen were remanded to jail custody today under provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The forest department has intensified vigil on poaching and illegal fishing and formed anti-poaching squads at Bhitarkanika.

Keeping a tab on illegal fishing has become imperative to protect fish and aquatic species as crocodiles were straying into villages in search of food.

The crackdown has evoked sharp reaction from fishermen. “In the name of protecting forest and wildlife, the forest department has jeopardised the livelihood of poor people living on the fringes of the wildlife sanctuary. Fishermen are being driven to starvation,” Tushar Sardar, president district traditional fishermen association said.

Forest and wildlife needed to be protected, but not at the cost of people’s livelihood. The forest department was yet to create alternate sources of livelihood for fishermen for their survival, Sardar said.

Forest officials justified the crackdown on illegal fishing. “As fishermen trespassed into the sanctuary, they were booked. Fishing is allowed outside the wildlife sanctuary,” the DFO said.

Alternate livelihood opportunities for those living in villages along the sanctuary were being explored, he said.