Kendrapara, July 30 (LocalWire): Large number of fishermen, trawler owners and seafood exporters under the banner of All Odisha Fish Producers Federation protested in front of the office of divisional forest officer at Rajnagar in Kendrapada district today.
They were decrying the forest officials’ decision to impose ban on fishing at Gahiramatha marine sanctuary throughout the year.
‘Earlier, the forest department used to impose fishing ban for seven months from 1November to 31 May to protect the Olive Ridley sea turtles.
But this year, officials illegally banned fishing throughout the year at Gahiramatha.
It is illegal of the government to impose twelve month-long fishing ban off Gahiramatha covering 60 kilometers from Hukitola to Dhamara as the turtle season ended in April.
Marine fishermen have launched an agitation to protect their fishing rights.
We also demand the demarcation of the marine sanctuary areas by putting floating buoys,’ said Sumant Biswal, the general secretary of AOFPF while addressing the fishermen in front of the office of DFO, Rajnagar.
‘The fate of three lakh marine fishermen is at stake due to fishing ban at Gahiramatha, Devi river mouth and Rushikulya mouth to protect turtles.
We have been demanding an alternative source of livelihood in the wake of the ban and an adequate compensation for the losses the fishermen have incurred due to the ban since there exists a clause in the Central Empowerment Committee’s directives, which says that there should be an alternate source of income before fishing ban is imposed,’ added Biswal.
Kameswar Praharaj, president of AOFPF pointed out that the fishing communities of Gahiramatha areas were not consulted before declaration of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary in 1997 and imposition of restrictions on fishing to protect Olive Ridley turtles.
The impact of the restrictions on the livelihood of fishermen was also not assessed by the authorities.
Praharaj further stated that the impact of the ban on fishing had been disastrous.
‘Impoverishment and debts have gone up, destitution, mental derangement and suicides stalk fishing and allied communities,’ he added.
Bimal Prasan Acharya, the divisional forest officer of Bhitarkanika National Park and Gahiramatha marine sanctuary said, ‘The authorities banned fishing within the marine sanctuary throughout the year to protect turtles, dolphins, sharks and other marine species.
We arrested 872 fishermen and seized 105 fishing vessels within Gahiramatha marine sanctuary from 1 November last year till date.
We are providing alternative livelihoods to the fishermen under Integrated Coastal Zone Management project of the government. ‘