'Operation Oliver' begins in Odisha

Kendrapara, Nov 13: With Olive Ridley marine turtles beginning their mating, 'Operation Oliver' has got underway along the serene seawaters of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Odisha's Kendrapara district.

Coast Guard has launched the exercise as part of its annual mission to ensure the safe mid-sea sojourn of breeding Olive Ridley sea turtles.

In joint coordination with state forest department, the turtle conservation programme is in full swing to keep watch and vigil on illegal fishing along the turtle concentration zone, Commandant (operation), Paradip Coast Guard, Rajkamal said today.

The Coast Guard has chalked out a pro-active plan for these marine animals' conservation. With round-the-clock vigil, the coast guard has been able to provide adequate protection to the endangered species.

Besides its fleet of ships, CG has also pressed into service a dornier aircraft for the operation oliver. It is keeping tab on illegal fishing in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.

The coast guard has organised interactive sessions with the marine fishermen communities to sensitise them on the pros and cons of legal embargo on fishing during ridleys' nesting season.

"The patrol exercise for surveillance on trespassing sea-worthy trawls is on as turtles perish in large number after getting hit on trawl propellers. Besides, breeding animals get entangled in fishing nets and are asphyxiated to death," Commandant Rajkamal said.

As the turtles have begun arriving en masse for mating, an aircraft is being pressed into service for easy interception of illegal trawling operation along the marine sanctuary water zone.

"The coast guard is always on alert to check trespassing of vessels. The patrol vessels engaged by forest and fisheries department often seek CG ship assistance in the event of exigencies. The operation to save turtles is being carried on in a coordinated manner", he said.

"We are always ready to help the forest and fisheries department for the safety of these delicate marine species," the CG official said, adding a state-of-the-art CG ship is maintaining round-the-clock vigil along the coastal shoreline.

The CG patrol in turtle congregation sites would remain in force till the marine turtles finish laying eggs on nesting beaches, CG officials said.

There is increase in awareness among the fishermen communities. As a result, unlawful sea fishing activity has dropped down considerably this year. One trawl has so far been intercepted for illegal fishing since the prohibition was clamped on sea fishing from November 1 within the 20 km radius of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.