Kendrapara(PTI): In a crackdown on illegal fishing in Olive Ridley turtle concentration zones, forest personnel have arrested 40 sea-going fishermen along the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, a forest officer said.
Fishing has been banned in the zone in Kendrapara district as the annual mass nesting of the endangered turtles is fast approaching, the official said.
The forest patrol squad seized five deep sea trawlers during the crackdown on Monday and arrested the 40 fishermen, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya, said.
The crackdown on unlawful sea fishing has been stepped up to make the turtles’ concentration zone free from human interference, he said.
The Forest Department has deployed two high-speed boats to patrol the marine waters of Gahirmatha sanctuary and also set up 16 patrolling camps off the coast in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts.
The state government has clamped a ban on trawl fishing along the 20-km stretch between Dhamra river mouth and Devi river mouth since November 1 last in view of the annual nesting season of the endangered turtles.
Since then, 350 fishermen have been arrested and 70 trawlers seized for violating Odisha Marine Fisheries Regulation Act, the official said.
In another development, female turtles have been sighted close to the beach near Gahirmatha sea waters in large numbers ahead of the mass nesting season, he said.
Last year, 6.04 lakh turtles had turned up for their annual sojourn for mass nesting during March. The female turtles had emerged from the sea to crawl on to the serene beach and dig pits to lay eggs.
The mass nesting is expected any time now, the DFO said.
“The female turtles are found congregating in sea water within a kilometre’s distance from the nesting beach,” he said.
The nesting ground at outer Wheeler Island of Gahirmatha is perfectly ideal for nesting with the beach getting elongated following natural accretion process, he said.
The weather condition is also perfectly ambient now for mass nesting, the DFO said.