Orissa High Court Emphasises Need to Check Illegal Trawling Activities

The Orissa High court reiterated the need for stepping up vigil operations by the State Police department at Gahirmatha – the world’s largest rookery for the endangered Olive Ridley turtle species – from the gnaws of illegal trawling activities. The court observed that patrolling should be made effective by arming the enforcement teams with adequate equipment, vehicles and training.

The order from the High Court came after the amicus curiae, Mohit Agarwal, filed a report about an alarming incident on March 15th in which a patrolling team was criminally confronted by fishermen in illegally operating trawlers. The fishermen ganged up and attacked the lone patrolling boat on the Gahirmatha coast, injuring the staff and leaving the boat damaged. The Court expressed anguish over “the impunity with which the illegally operating trawlers are able to violate the law”.

The bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice BP Routray directed the Regional Chief Conservator of Forest (RCCF), Bhubaneswar Circle, “to personally oversee the steps being taken and to ensure strict compliance with the directions issued by this court in coordination with the district administration”

As per Agarwal’s statement, the incident occurred around 10.30 PM on the night of 15th March. After detecting a fishing trawler in the protected sanctuary area, the Gahirmatha Wildlife Range and the APR Police staff departed to intercept the trawler. However, taking cover of the night, the fishermen instead pounced on the team and attacked all the members aboard the patrolling boat with sharp weapons.

In his report, he added, “till the evening of March 18, none of the accused persons or their associates has been arrested, nor has the offending boat been traced. This has severely affected the morale of the patrolling staff and does not send a good signal to other offenders in the present nesting season”.

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