Kendrapara, August 3 (LocalWire): Environmentalists and locals in Kendrapara district have demanded a complete 12-month ban on fishing in Gahiramatha marine sanctuary.
The group under the banner of Gahiramatha Marine Turtle Protection and Mangrove Conservation Society (GMTPMCS) organized a demonstration in front of the office of Divisional Forest Office at Rajnagar on Saturday and also called upon the authorities to evict all encroachers from the Bhitarkanika National Park.
They also demanded to dismantle all the illegal prawn farms in the coastal pockets to protect the mangrove forest, sea turtle, crocodile, dolphin, spotted deer and other animals from Gahiramatha to Bhitarkanika.
Addressing the meeting, noted environmentalist and GMTPMCS secretary Hemant Rout stated that in 1997 the government had declared Gahiramatha marine sanctuary as a protected area for marine turtles.
The Gahiramatha beach is known as the largest rookery of the Olive Ridley sea turtles and the authorities banned fishing throughout the year within 20 kilometers from the coastline in the marine sanctuary areas covering 1,360 square kilometers in the sea from Hukitola to Dhamara.
But many fishermen illegally fish in the sanctuary endangering the lives of turtles, dolphins, sharks and other marine species are in danger.
It is high time on the part of the forest officials to take legal action against the fishermen who catch within the sanctuary.
In 2015, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had declared 192 villages around Bhitarkanika National Park and Gahiramatha marine Sanctuary as Eco-Sensitive Zones to prevent ecological damage caused due to developmental activities.
“The forest officials do not take any action against the encroachers who have been denuding the mangrove forest making the area more prone to the cyclonic storm as the mangrove forest and other trees are the natural barrier against the storm and cyclone,” Rout stated
“The unchecked growth of prawn farms had rendered useless large tracks of fertile farmlands in the seaside villages of the district due to the release of the untreated effluents from the farms into the nearby agriculture lands,” GMTPMCS president Satya Prakash Mohanty said.
“All the shrimp farms are illegal within the park as it violates the Coastal Regulation Zone and the rulings of the Supreme Court and High Court.
Farmers cultivating shrimp without registering with the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) are liable to be imprisoned for three years and levied a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
But the authorities are not taking any action against the prawn mafias,” Bibhu Prasad Mohapatra of Rajnagar alleged.
When contacted, Bhitarkanika National Park and Gahiramatha Marine Sanctuary divisional forest officer Bimal Prasan Acharya said that the authorities have banned all types of fishing within marine sanctuary throughout the year to protect the turtles, dolphins, sharks and other marine species.
“We have arrested 872 fishermen and seized 105 fishing vessels within Gahiramatha marine sanctuary from 1 November 2018 till date.
We are also demolishing the illegal prawn farms,” he stated.