Turtle protection vessel attacked by fishermen

Kendrapara: Fishermen in trawlers allegedly attacked turtle patrol vessels in prohibited sea waters of Gahirmatha sanctuary, forest department officials said on Thursday.

The attack which took place last night came close on the heels of similar act of violence on January 12 when a fisherman was killed in firing by the forest patrol team.

The turtle patrolling had resumed after a fortnight.

Crew members of fishing trawlers attacked the patrol vessel after they were spotted fishing illegally in prohibited Gahirmatha sea-waters, said Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, Forest Range Officer, Suvendu Behera.

One of the patrol vessels deployed by the forest department for turtle protection was damaged following the attack and nine fishermen of a trawler were taken into custody in connection with the incident.

Four forest vessels with 50 crews were engaged in annual turtle protection drive when a fleet of four trawlers chased the patrol vessels. The crews of patrol vessels were outnumbered by those in the intruding trawls.

“We asked the crew members of fishing trawlers to give in through microphone. But they intentionally collided with one the patrol vessels. The outer body of the vessel was damaged. Despite being provoked, the patrolling crews did not fire in self defence,” Behera said.

One of the trawlers was intercepted with nine of its crew-members while other fishing trawlers managed to flee.

Divisional Forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Division, Kedar Kumar Swain said the fishing vessels had trespassed into prohibited sanctuary corridors contravening provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act and mandatory rules of marine sanctuary.

In a bid to curb high mortality of turtles, the state government has prohibited fishing activity within a seaward radius of 20 km from Gahirmatha marine sanctuary from November one.