KENDRAPARA: The seven-month fishing ban at Gahirmatha marine sanctuary to protect the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles will come into effect from Sunday. Range officer Debashis Bhoi said the turtles will arrive in November for mating in the sea water and lay eggs in March. Forest guards have been deployed to arrest fishermen entering the marine sanctuary limits.
“We have set up 15 turtle protection camps including three offshore ones at Agaranashi, Barunei and Babubali islands. The personnel of marine police stations at Kharinashi and Paradip along with the Indian Coast Guard will help forest officials in preventing illegal fishing this year,” said Bhoi.
Gahirmatha marine sanctuary is the prime feeding area for the sea turtles that nest all the way up to Nasi 1 and Nasi-2 islands. Trawlers and boatmen have been directed not to fish within 20 km from coastline in the marine sanctuary area covering 1,435 sq km from Hukitola to Dhamra. In 1997, the government had declared Gahirmatha a marine sanctuary to protect the sea turtles which arrive at its coast for laying eggs.
Last season, around 773 fishermen were arrested and 80 boats and trawlers seized in Gahiramatha for illegal fishing under Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982. Due to fishing ban, over four lakh turtles laid eggs from March 14 to 21 at Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 islands. The Forest department has also sought the assistance of volunteers and turtle researchers of Gahirmatha Marine Turtle and Mangrove Conservation Society (GMTMCS) to protect the turtles on the beach and in the sea.