Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Feb 17:
The breeding zone of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles in Odisha’s Puri district, which ranges from the mouth of Debi River at Astaranga to mouth of Kushabhadra River at Ramchandi, has turned into a vast cemetery for the rare species owing to illegal trawling.
Hundreds of turtles fall prey to these trawlers every day and become food for stray dogs while the authorities turn a blind eye to these incidents. The ban on fishing in the area enforced by the state government has become a joke.
“Hundreds of trawlers fish in the area irrespective of the ban. Hundreds of dead turtles are washed ashore every day. The administration doesn’t take any action,” said Sampad Nayak, a local.
“We find dead turtles hitting the shore every day. The (forest) department just buries them. The officers, who are supposed to patrol these areas, don’t care much about patrolling and stop trawling. They limit their job to burying and issuing false reports,” said Duryodhan Behera, another local.
A trawler of marine fishery department meant to patrol the no-fishing zones of the sea lies defunct at Bilua Mundli near Astaranga.
“They haven’t been able to repair the defunct boat since last 2-3 years. It’s damaged beyond repair now,” commented a local named Manoj Behera of Bilua Mundli.
However, the forest department claims it has built 11 protection centres for the turtles along the Puri coast. It says marine police station, marine fishery department and the forest department are also patrolling the coast to enforce the fishing ban.
“We are conducting joint patrolling by the fishery, forest and marine police. We are trying everything possible to drive away intruders from this area and seize vessels violating the orders. We had seized two boats at Chandrabhaga. However, the patrolling has slowed down a bit. We are trying our very best to get the momentum back again,” said District Forest Officer Chitta Ranjan Mishra.