KENDRAPARA: Protesting the punitive action on fishermen venturing into sea during the prolonged fishing ban along the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, the community in the region has demanded proper demarcation of the prohibited zone and a passage through Barunei river mouth.
President of Odisha Traditional Fish Workers’ Union Prasan Behera said it is high time the sanctuary is demarcated so that fishermen can venture into the sea for fishing beyond the sanctuary area.
He said the State Government has imposed a seven-month long fishing ban from November 1 to May 31 next year in the sanctuary to protect the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles. Due to non-demarcation of the ‘no fishing zone’ in Gahrimatha, forest and Coast Guard personnel have arrested around 30 fishermen and seized four fishing vessels.
Prasan said several fishermen enter the sanctuary area inadvertently for fishing as it has not yet been demarcated. They have sought a passage to the sea Barunei river mouth as it is not possible for them to enter the sea from the nearby fishing harbour at Paradip due to heavy siltation. Several boats are damaged during low tide as the bottom of the harbour remains silted.
De-silting has not been carried out at the harbour for the last several years resulting in accumulation of sand and mud at its bottom. The fishermen need the passage so that they can fish beyond 20 km from the ‘no fishing zone’ of the sanctuary.
Forest range officer of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary Debashis Bhoi said 20 buoys were placed to demarcate the sanctuary last year but the fishermen removed all of them. He said fishing vessels are equipped with GPS to guide them through areas which have been banned for fishing. Bhoi said the Forest department cannot allow fishing vessels to enter the Barunei river mouth in the sanctuary.
Last year, forest officials had arrested 832 fishermen and seized 102 fishing boats on charge of fishing in the marine sanctuary during the ban.