Odisha imposes 7-month ban on fishing to protect Olive Ridley turtles

Kendrapara, Nov 2: With the Olive Ridley sea turtles' breeding season approaching, 0disha government agencies have imposed a ban from Wednesday on sea fishing activity to protect the endangered marine animals. The seven-month ban on fishing activity was clamped along the stretch of Dhamra-Devi-Rushikulya river mouth, in view of commencement of the mass nesting, officials said.

Close to 26,000 traditional marine fishermen in coastal Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts are likely to be affected due to the ban, which would remain effective till May 31.

The restriction is imposed in accordance with provisions of Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA), 1982 and provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Over 300 trawls and vessels were seized and around 2,000 crews arrested during last year's ban, for defying the OMFRA provisions along the prohibited zones, they said.

"To ensure safety of turtles, the prohibitory orders are being strictly enforced. The trawl operators have been cautioned not to venture into prohibited water zone. Any act of trespass will invite punitive measures," said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.

In view of drop in marine fish catch, fishermen have been voicing their demand for temporary permits for fishing activity on once-a-week basis.

"To make up the loss of livelihood sources, subsidised rice at Rs 1-a-kg is being distributed under Rice for Olive Ridley Conservation (RORC) programme to over 6,000 fishermen families directly affected by the fishing ban.

"All the fishermen families under the alternate livelihood scheme have been covered under the scheme to compensate the community's monetary loss due to prohibition," Paradip Marine Fisheries Officer Bharat Bhusan Sahu said.

Most traditional fishermen operate in the 5-km stretch with their indigenous 'kani' or net which usually does not harm turtles.

"The breeding turtles get killed by the trawlers, which use mono-filament nets that lead to entangling of the turtles," claimed Tushar Sardar, the district wing president of Traditional Marine Fishermens' Union.

Ancillary sectors, such as ice factories and net-making units in areas like Dhamra, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Ramnagar, Sandhakuda, Ambiki, Erasama and Paradipgada will also face shutdown due to the fishing ban.

Skilled boat-makers from these areas have begun heading towards Digha and Vishakhapatnam following the restriction.

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