Fishers Resent Fishing Ban

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The government has decided to provide Rs 5,000 to the families affected by the fishing ban as compensation, which is too little and is being provided to a limited number of families. Fishermen, both big and small, regularly violated the ban as it posed a grave threat to their livelihood. In the past there have also been instances of fishermen committing suicide due to ban.

 

Resentment is brewing among traditional fishermen over restrictions imposed by the government on sea fishing to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. While demanding revision and rationalization of the government’s prohibitory move fishing community leaders have also sought enhancement  of  the compensation  amount being offered to the affected fishermen.The seven-month ban clamped on November 1 is enforceable in an area of up to 20 kms from the shoreline. It has hit the livelihood of around 30, 000 fishermen in the state’s coastal districts, especially Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur.

President of Odisha Matsyajivi Forum, Narayan Haldar described the ban as illogical saying that traditional fishermen used small boats, which could not go far into the sea. “The government should reconsider the ban and reduce the area where fishing is proscribed,” he said.

The Odisha Traditional Fish Workers’ Union (OTFWU), an umbrella organization of traditional fishermen, has also been protesting against the restrictions, which they find irrational and prejudicial to the interests of fishermen. General Secretary of the union, K.Alleya said the ban needs to be rationalized.

The seven month ban on fishing is in addition to the routine ban on fishing every April and May during the breeding season of fish. Besides, fishermen are not allowed to enter the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Kendrapara district round the year as part of the government’s turtle protection measure.Sources said though the government has decided to provide Rs 5,000 to the families affected by the fishing ban as compensation, Haldar  calls it too little. “Not only is the amount too small; it is being provided to a limited number of families in Rajnagar and Mahakalpada areas of Kendrapara district,” said Haldar.

Sources said fishermen, both big and small, regularly violated the ban as it posed a grave threat to their livelihood. In the past there have also been instances of fishermen committing suicide due to ban.

On the other hand forest department has stepped up efforts to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtles by setting up onshore protection camps. Forest officials said that number of turtle casualties had been vastly reduced this time as a result of enhanced vigil by forest officials.   The number of onshore turtle protection camps in Ganjam has been increased to 11 from 10 last time. “We have also intensified patrolling along the coast. A speed boat and a trawler have been stationed at Markandi village to keep an eye on rogue fishing vessels,” said an officer.

Sources said that said that efforts are also being made to sensitize fishermen to adopt measures to ensure the safety of the endangered species. Sensitizing the fishermen living along the coast is considered necessary as most of the turtle casualties are caused by fishing trawlers. The number of turtle deaths has shown a declining trend during the last two years because of such initiatives.

Sources said while 153 Olive Ridley turtles were found dead along the Ganjam coast in 2016-17, around 175 dead turtles were found in the 40-km long coast in 2015-16. The number of casualties is expected to come down further this time.

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