The Government of Odisha has declared a seven-month long ban on fishing activities on a 20 kilometers stretch of Dharma-Rushikulya river mouth within Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary. The move has been necessary to protect the highly endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles that nest during these times of the year.

The ban will come into effect from November to May 31, 2016. The endangered Olive Ridley arrives during the winter months for mass nesting in the Rushikulya river mouth and Gahirmatha marine sanctuary.

This move is likely to affect more than 26,000 marine fishermen in the coastal Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts. The ban has been enforced under the sections 2, 4 and 7 of the ‘Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act (OMFRA), 1982’ and provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Last year, more than 100 trawlers and fishing vessels were seized, and crews arrested and charged under the different provisions of the OMFRA acts for fishing along the prohibited water zones, Forest department officials said.

Most local fishermen fish along the 5 Km stretch using their indigenous kani or net that does not do any harm. The breeding Olive Ridley turtles are killed by large trawlers and fishing vessels that use monofilament nets that entangle the turtles.

Other associated units like ice factories, net making units have also been closed down in localities such as Ambiki, Erasama, Paradigma, Dhamra, Jamboo, Kharinasi, Ramnagar and Sandhakuda

However, the livelihoods of the fishermen are also important as the conservation of the Ridleys. Therefore, the government has got a program underway to provide other livelihood schemes to recompense the community’s monetary loss due to prohibition

Odisha has three nesting sites —

  1. Devi river mouth in Puri district,
  2. Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapada district
  3. Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district

Gahirmatha beach in Kendrapada district is said to be the largest turtle nesting sites in the world. More than half a million turtles arrive in the shallow waters of Bay Of Bengal for nesting in the months in between December and March. Most of the newly hatched turtles emerge from May.