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Fishermen up in arms

Paradip, Dec. 17: Fishermen from Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts have stepped up their demand for redrawing of the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary limits to compensate for the loss of livelihood caused by prohibition on fishing.

The ban has been imposed for seven months — November 1 to May 31 — to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtles, which visit the coast for mass nesting.

“We do not fully oppose the fishing prohibition. But we need to take another look at prohibition measures to protect the interest of thousands of economically backward fishermen,” said Odisha Traditional Fish Workers’ Association president Narayan Haldar.

“The fishermen with their country-made vessels are not equipped to venture into deep-sea turtle concentration zones. As they cause no harm to breeding turtles, prohibition norms need to be relaxed. The fishing ban should remain in force for deep-sea trawls, which are solely responsible for turtle mortality,” the fishermen’s body said in a memorandum submitted to the Odisha government.

The government had constituted a task force headed by the Agriculture Productivity Commission to award compensation to fishermen for loss of livelihood. But nothing has been done so far, said Haldar.

Though the World Bank-funded Integrated Costal Zone Management Programme is being implemented for compensating fishermen for the ban period, the majority of jobless fishermen are not covered under the programme.

Hardly 3,000 families have got the benefits of alternative livelihood support while there are about 20,000 fishermen left with nothing to do during the seven-month fishing prohibition, the fish workers’ union stated. Divisional forest officer of Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, said: “The demand put forth by fishermen and other stakeholders has been forwarded to competent authorities.”