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Nine held after mid-sea clash
- Patrol team, fishermen clash for second time this month

Paradip, Jan. 30: Fishermen attacked turtle patrol vessels in the prohibited waters of Gahirmatha sanctuary near the Ekakula coast. This is second incident of fishermen clashing with the authorities this month.

One patrol vessel of the state forest department has been damaged. Nine persons have been arrested.

The turtle patrolling exercise, which was stopped on January 12 following a similar attack, resumed only yesterday. However, trawler operators, who were spotted fishing in the prohibited waters turned belligerent and attacked the patrol vessels, said forest range officer of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary Suvendu Behera.

Four forest vessels with 50 crew members were engaged in the annual turtle protection drive when a fleet of four trawlers chased the patrol vessels. Those in the trawlers outnumbered the crew of patrol vessels.

“We asked the fishermen in the trawlers to stop. But they headed towards us and intentionally collided with one of our patrol vessels and damaged it. Despite being provoked, the patrolling crew did not fire in self-defence. One of the trawlers was intercepted with nine of its crew members. Four other fishing trawlers managed to escape,” the forest official said.

The forest department had been alerted on the intrusion of fishing trawlers into the turtle zone. To intercept the trespassing vessels, sea patrol had been restarted. The patrolling units had sighted about 15 intruding trawlers illegally fishing in prohibited zone, said a forest official.

Divisional forest officer of the Rajnagar mangrove forest division Kedar Kumar Swain said: “The crew of the rogue vessels were in belligerent mood and threatened to attack the patrol vessels.”

The nine traditional marine fishermen, who formed the crew of the impounded vessel, are from Balasore district. They were later forwarded to jail custody, said a forest official.

The state government, in a bid to curb the high mortality of the Olive Ridley turtles, has banned fishing within a 20km radius of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary from November 1.