Crew members of fishing trawler attack forest guards when asked not to fish in the sanctuary, 9 arrested
At least three forest guards of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary were injured in an alleged mid-sea assault 10 kilometers off the coast November 27, 2021, by a group of fishermen. They allegedly damaged a patrolling vessel of the forest department as well.
The crew of a fishing trawler attacked the forest guards when they warned them not to fish in the sanctuary, the injured guards alleged. They allegedly tried to sink the boat in the sea too.
A complaint was lodged at the marine police station at Talachua; nine fishermen were arrested November 27, added forest officials.
“The fishermen assaulted forest personnel with logs and sharp weapons and damaged the gear of the patrolling vessel. More security forces and forest guards rushed to the sea to nab the crew members,” alleged Debashis Bhoi, range officer at the sanctuary.
All three injured forest guards — Deepak Mandal, Ajit Jardhar and Madhusudan Behera — managed to return to the coast November 28 and were admitted to the district headquarters hospital at Kendrapara.
Trawlers and other fishing vessels have been directed not to fish within 20 kilometers from the coastline in the sanctuary areas spanning 1,435 square kilometers from Hukitola to Dhamara.
The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary was established in 1997 to protect the marine turtles; lakhs of turtles come to the Gahiramatha coast to lay eggs in the winter season.
“Gahirmatha beach is the largest rookery of the sea turtles in the world for which the government banned all types of fishing for seven months to save the endangered marine species,” said Bhoi.
He added 15 turtle protection camps, including three offshore camps at Agaranashi, Barunei and Babubali islands, have been established to protect turtles in the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.
“The policemen at marine police stations of Kharinashi and Paradip as well as coast guards will help forest officials prevent illegal fishing. We have demarcated the marine sanctuary by putting eight buoys in the sea water,” said the forest officer.
As many as 55 marine fishermen have been taken into custody and 12 fishing craft seized for unlawful fishing activity within the jurisdiction of the sanctuary since the fishing ban was enforced on November 1, he added.
As many as 349,694 turtles laid eggs from March 9-23, 2021 at the Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands within the sanctuary, he said.
Forest and coast guard officials arrest several fishermen. This happens as the ‘no-fishing zone’ is usually not demarcated,” said Prasan Kumar Behera, president of Odisha Traditional Fish Workers’ Union.
Mayadhar Mallick (45), a fisherman from village Narayanpur was gunned down by the armed Coast Guard personnel in the deep sea within Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in 2019. Akbar Ali Khan (21) a crew member of a fishing trawler was gunned down by armed forest guards in 2014 in the marine sanctuary.
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