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  The Statesman 1 Nov 06
India: Fishermen suffer for turtles

KENDRAPARA: The state government today clamped a six-months’ ban on fishing activities along the 20-km stretch Dhamra-Barunei estuary within the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in view of commencement of mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles even as an estimated 25,000 traditional marine fishermen in coastal districts of Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur have voiced their protest against the government move.

As is the practice, the state government, in a bid to curb high mortality of these marine species, prohibits fishing activity within a seaward radius of 20 km from Gahirmatha marine sanctuary probably from coming September.

The ban is clamped in accordance with Sections 2, 7 and 4 of Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982 and under the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

In view of drop in marine fish catch and subsequent loss of job, the traditional marine fishermen have urged the government to provide them with temporary permits for fishing once a week.

Last year, the government had made commitment in this regard, but it was never implemented pushing the marine fishermen from these parts to the brink of poverty, said a spokesman of local traditional marine fishermen association.

According to marine fishermen of these areas, the conservation of endangered Ridleys was of paramount importance but it should not be at the cost of livelihood of thousands of fishermen, who cause no harm to these species.

Most traditional fishermen belong to lower socioeconomic background, so they use mechanised boats whose capacity is quite low. They fishing in five km off sea coast with their indigenous kani net in which turtles never get entangled and they do not venture into deep sea like deep-sea trawlers, who, by using mono-filament nets, lead the breeding species to be entangled and killed in the process.

According to them, the mono-filament and other costlier and improvised nets that are used by the trawl operators are beyond the reach of these fishermen.

“It’s fashionable these days to talk of environment and wildlife conservation and so those who speak for the turtles are hailed by international powers and NGOs, which, having their own environment and wildlife, preach to third world countries,” the fishermen decried.

The prohibition in past years has resulted in a drastic drop in marine fish production and economy of the region, solely regulated by fishing sector, lies shattered.

Many ancillary sectors, owing their existence to thriving marine fish industries, are equally hit by the ban. Instances of ice-factories closing their shops following sliding commercial viability are not far to seek in areas like Dhamra, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Ramnagar, Sandhakuda, Ambiki, Erasama and Paradipgada.

Skilled boat-makers from these areas are slowly making their way to Digha and Vishakhapatnam as the business in these parts will come to a grinding halt once the ban becomes effective.

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