Trawlers and boatmen have been directed not to fish within 20 kilometres of the coastline
The Odisha forest department will ban fishing between November 1, 2019-May 31, 2020, in the state’s Gahiramatha marine sanctuary to protect Olive Ridley turtles.
Gahiramatha, in the state’s Kendrapada district, was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997. Known as the world’s largest Olive Ridley rookery, the animals come in their lakhs in the waters surrounding the sanctuary in November for mating. The females lay eggs in March.
“Trawlers and boatmen have been directed not to fish within 20 kilometres of the coastline, covering 68 kilometres from Hukitola to Dhamara. Forest officials have deployed forest guards to arrest fishermen found entering the sanctuary,” Debashis Bhoi, the forest range officer of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary, said.
“We have already established 16 turtle protection camps including three offshore camps at Agaranashi, Barunei and Babubali islands to protect turtles in the sanctuary. Personnel of marine police stations at Kharinashi and Paradip and coast guards will help forest officials prevent illegal fishing this year,” he added.
The forest department has also deployed two interceptor boats to protect the turtles. The boats were procured from Mumbai at a cost of Rs three crore each three years ago. These speedy boats will help us catch fishing vessels that illegally fish in the sanctuary, Bhoi said.
According to him, around 4.70 lakh turtles had laid eggs between February 26-March 5, this year, at the Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands within Gahiramatha due to the fishing ban imposed by the forest department.
Officials had seized 102 fishing boats and trawlers and had arrested 832 fishermen on charges of illegally fishing within Gahiramatha during the ban period between November 1, 2018-May 31, 2019, Bhoi said.
The Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and its latest amendments in 2006 provide legal protection to all the sea turtle species occurring in the state.
Though Gahiramatha has been battered severely several times during the past two decades the Olive Ridleys have kept coming to it regularly, Hemant Rout, secretary of Gahirmatha Marine Turtle and Mangrove Conservation Society, said.
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