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Ridley squad nabs 5

- Stepped-up vigil yields result
File picture of trawler with turtles trapped in fishing net

Kendrapara, Dec. 3: Officials of the turtle protection squad arrested five marine fishermen for intruding into the prohibited breeding zones of the Olive Ridleys near Agarnasi off the Bay of Bengal coast.

They also seized the mechanised vessel used by the fishermen for sea fishing within the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary. The fishermen, who formed the crew of the impounded vessel, were from Balasore district.

A forest official said the fishermen were forwarded to jail under sections 27 and 29 of the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982.

The sea patrolling has been stepped up within the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary water territory in view of the annual mass nesting season of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.

With the latest mid-sea crackdown, 22 marine fishermen have been arrested till date while four intruding fishing trawls are seized for indulging in unlawful fishing activities within the prohibited zones of the sanctuary since November 1.

The Coast Guard, forest department, police and the fisheries department are jointly conducting the operation to stop unlawful trawling to ensure safety of the Olive Ridley turtles. The marine animals have begun their annual breeding season earlier in November last, said divisional forest officer of the Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division Manoj Kumar Mahapatra.

The state government has clamped trawl-fishing ban along the 20km stretch of the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary from November 1 in view of the ensuing mass nesting of the Olive Ridley turtles. The ban was in accordance with sections of the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act.

Rise in mortality rate of the mating turtles along the coastal water surface has led to the ban as the gill nets used by the trawls often prove fatal for the breeding turtles. The species, accorded as the Schedule-I animal under the wildlife protection act for its highly threatened status, get entangled in the nets and die of asphyxiation. The turtles also perish after getting hit by the fast moving propeller of the trawlers, another forest official said.