Ban on Fishing enforced in Gahirmatha to protect Olive Ridley Turtles

The Odisha State Forest Department has enforced a seven-month fishing ban, with effect from today, in the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Kendrapada district. The ban has been put in place to protect the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles that nest during this period.

“This is going to benefit sea turtles that are threatened with extinction. Gahirmatha marine sanctuary is a prime feeding area for sea turtles that nest all the way up to Nasi 1 and Nasi-2 within Gahirmatha beach and other areas. Trawlers and boatmen have been directed not to fish within 20 km off the coastline in the marine sanctuary, covering 1,435 sq km from Hukitola to Dhamara. Forest department has already deployed guards to arrest fishermen who enter the marine sanctuary,” said Debashis Bhoi, forest range officer of the marine sanctuary.

Gahirmatha was declared as a marine sanctuary in 1997 by the State Government in a bid to save the turtles, who come to lay eggs and breed. The ban is usually an annual affair to protect the species from extermination due to over-exploitation of natural resources in the sanctuary. The turtles usually arrive in November to mate in the seawater. By March, the female turtles arrive on the beaches to lay the eggs. Fifteen turtle protection camps have been set up, with three offshore camps at Agaranashi, Barunei and Babubali islands.

“Despite all the measures to protect the turtles, a large number of them are killed every year as fishing trawlers don’t use TED (turtle excluder device). Eleven years ago, the forest department had distributed 1,800 TEDs for free among trawler owners but nobody is using them,” said Hemant Rout, secretary of GMTMCS.