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Turtle Patrol Vessel Attacked by Illegal Trawlers in Odisha’s Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Kendrapada: In an incident against wildlife conservation efforts, a turtle patrol vessel belonging to the Forest Department was attacked by the crew of trawlers engaged in illegal fishing within the prohibited seawaters of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Odisha’s Kendrapada district.

The incident occurred on Monday afternoon when an eleven-member turtle patrol vessel encountered 15-20 trawlers operating in the prohibited seawaters near the Mahanadi river mouth, in front of Hukitola. According to officials, when the patrol vessel approached the trawlers and requested them to cease their activities, the fishermen launched an aggressive assault on the vessel with the intent to capsize it.

Assistant Conservator of Forest at Bhitarkanika National Park, Manask Kumar Dash, recounted the harrowing encounter, stating, “Despite being outnumbered, the crew of the patrol vessel refrained from using force in self-defence.” Fortunately, the situation was brought under control when two additional forest vessels rushed to the scene upon receiving a distress call from the officials, prompting the intruders to retreat.

Following the altercation, a formal complaint was lodged at the Dhamra Marine police station against the owners of the trawlers. Rajanagar Forest Division officer, Sudarshan Gopinath Jadav, expressed the challenges faced by conservation authorities, highlighting the difficulty in confronting the well-coordinated operations of the trawlers in the rich fishing grounds of Gahirmatha.

The fishing ban has been imposed from November 1 to May 31 to safeguard the endangered Olive Ridley turtles, which frequent the Gahirmatha coast for nesting during the winter months.

The arrested fishermen have been charged under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and were produced in court on Monday, as confirmed by Range Officer of the Forest Division, Pradosh Moharana.

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