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Olive Ridley Sea Turtles: Frequent Fishing Bans Turn Bane for Odisha Fishermen

Fishing in the sea or deep sea has become a livelihood threat for fishermen as the governments, whether the Union or State, compete with each other to continue some sort of ban on fishing.

Now capping them all, Odisha government has imposed a ban on fishing to protect the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles which customarily visit for layng eggs in the three sanctuaries of Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapada, Devi river mouth in Puri district, and Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district.

Armed with a cause, Odisha government on Sunday imposed a 7-month-long ban on fishing activity along the 20-km stretch as per sections 2, 4 and 7 of the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA), 1982 and provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

An estimated 26,000 traditional marine fishermen in coastal Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts would go without livelihood but neither the forest officials nor the local officials have come out with an alternate program for these thousands of fishermen whose families depend on fishing in the area.

Last year too, about one hundred trawlers and vessels were seized and the fishermen were arrested during the ban period for defying the OMFRA provisions. "To ensure the safety of turtles, prohibitory orders are being strictly enforced," Bimal Prasanna Acharya, divisional forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division told media.

The so-called fishing ban has become almost a continuous phenomenon in the coast of late. To begin with in April, large fishing boats and trawlers along the East Coast were barred from deep sea fishing for 45 days, bringing seafood sale in Chennai drop down from 130 tonnes to 5 tonnes during this period.

Again in June, in the name of allowing fish breeding, a ban for 61 days was imposed beginning from June 1 and the decision taken during the ministers’ meeting elicited no plans to compensate the loss of livelihood for fishermen in the coastal region.

Again in September 2015, a 72-hour fishing ban was imposed to facilitate a missile test by the Defence Research Development Organisation, though it was precautionary measure ensuring the safety of fishing boats.

But the central government has been happy imposing ban than providing an alternative livelihood compensation for these fishermen, said annoyed fishermen and trawler operators in the region. Almost throughout the year there is some form of a ban on fishing along the east coast, they complain.

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