Wildlife & Biodiversity

Trawler with live Olive Ridleys seized by forest guards in Gahiramatha

Six fishermen were arrested on charges of trafficking the endangered turtles that were released back into the sea

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Thursday 16 January 2020

Forest guards have seized a trawler carrying four live Olive Ridley sea turtles and arrested six fishermen   for trafficking the endangered marine species on the night of January 15, 2020, in Odisha's Gahiramatha marine sanctuary.

Located in Kendrapara district, Gahiramatha is the world's largest rookery of Olive Ridleys.

“We intercepted the trawler with live turtles at Hukitola island within the marine sanctuary and released the turtles into the sea,” Debashis Bhoi, the forest range officer of the marine sanctuary, said.

Many Olive Ridleys die on being trapped in the nylon nets of trawlers fishing along the coast. Marine fishermen have been directed not to fish within 20 kilometres of the coastline in the marine sanctuary. The protected area stretches from Hukitola to Dhamara, covering 1,360 square kilometres in the sea.

Gahiramatha was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997 to protect Olive Ridleys as thousands of them come to the area in winter to lay eggs. Fishing in the sanctuary is prohibited from November 1 to May 31 every year, to protect the turtles.

“We established 16 turtle protection camps, including three offshore camps at Agaranashi, Barunei and Babubali islands, to protect turtles in Gahiramatha. The policemen of marine police stations at Kharinashi and Paradip and coast guards are helping forest officials to prevent illegal fishing this year,” Bhoi said.

Around 470,000 turtles laid eggs between February 26 and March 5, 2019, at the Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands within Gahiramatha, thanks to the fishing ban imposed by the administration, he added.

Forest officials have already seized 36 fishing boats and trawlers and arrested 310 fishermen for illegally fishing within Gahiramatha between November 1, 2019, and January 16, 2020, Bhoi said.

The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and its latest amendments in 2006 provide umbrella legislation to all marine species occurring within India’s territorial waters.

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