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Fishing ban to save Olive Ridley sea turtles in Odisha

Fishing ban to save Olive Ridley sea turtles in Odisha
With the mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles' fast approaching, a 7-month ban on fishing activity was clamped from on Tuesday along the 20-km stretch of Dhamra-Rushikulya river mouth, affecting the livelihood of thousands of traditional marine fishermen.

The stretch, famous for the mass nesting of the endangered specie, falls within Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary.

An estimated 26,000 traditional marine fishermen in coastal Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts are likely to be affected due to the ban order, which would remain effective from today to May 31.

The ban is clamped as per Sections 2, 7 and 4 of Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA), 1982 and provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

154 trawls and vessels were seized and 322 crew arrested during the ban clamped last time as vessels defied the OMFRA provisions and indulged in fishing along the prohibited zones, officials said.

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

In view of the drop in marine fish catch and subsequent loss of avocation, the fishermen have been voicing their demand for the government to provide 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 who are directly affected by fishing ban. All the fishermen families under the alternate livelihood scheme are covered under the scheme to compensate the monetary loss due to the ban", District Fisheries Officer, Gyan Ranjan Samal, said.

The conservation of endangered Ridleys is of paramount importance but it should not be at the cost of livelihood of thousands of fishermen, who cause no harm to these species, rued the affected fishermen.

Most traditional fishermen fish in the 5 km stretch with indigenous kani or net which do not harm turtles. The breeding turtles get entangled and killed by trawlers which use mono-filament nets, claimed Tushar Sardar, district wing president of Traditional Marine Fishermen's Union.

Ancillary sectors like ice-factories and net making units in areas like Dhamra, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Ramnagar, Sandhakuda, Ambiki, Erasama and Paradipgada have closed down.

Skilled boat-makers from these areas are heading towards Digha and Vishakhapatnam due to bleak business, he claimed.
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