.........JAGATSINGHPUR: Villagers of Padmapur, Sahadabedi and other coastal areas of Erasama block are concerned over rampant practice of blast fishing in the sea. Sarpanch of Padmapur panchayat Keshab Charan Patra said fishermen from Noliasahi and Astarang in Puri district come to this area on boats and hurl explosives into the water to stun or kill schools of fish. The explosion also results in death of other marine species. This practice is rampant during the winter season when the sea water is still and there are no tidal waves, he said.
As per reports, a Singapore-based vessel faced an accident at the seashore of Siali in 1995. After the vessel sank, the debris from its upper portion was removed while the lower part fell on the ocean floor, barely 300 mts from the seashore.
This portion of the vessel is now home to several marine species and fish like Seer Fish, Bangda, black and white Pomfret, Small Trevally, Indian Mackerel, Squid, dotted Scad, crab, prawn and several others.Patra said fishermen target the remains of the vessel, where tonnes of fish take shelter, hoping for a good catch. Particularly, those from Noliasahi use this blast method to catch tonnes of fish easily.
He said for the last 15 to 20 years, fishermen have been using this illegal method to catch fish. However, no action has been taken against these people. “ Forest and Fishery departments are doing nothing to stop this illegal practice because of a nexus between fisherman communities and officials,” Patra alleged.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have called for an end to blast fishing which is illegal and violates Odisha Marine Fishing Regulation Act. This method is destructive and has an unpredictable effect on the marine ecosystem that supports fish. The explosions also kill other sea life, including Olive Ridley turtles in the area besides severely damaging the underlying habitat, they said.
A scientist of the Fishery department said the explosions also rupture swim bladders of fish that help them to control their buoyancy. After a blast, a small number of fish float on the surface while many sink to bottom of the seafloor, he added.
Activists of Gada Surakhya and Swabhiman Manch said armed fishermen from Astarang are coming to the area and bombing their catch out of the sea. Villagers are in panic due to the frequent explosions, they said and urged the Forest and Fishery officials to put an end to this illegal practice.
Kujang Forest Ranger Pratap Mohanty confessed that some errant fishermen are throwing explosives like dynamite and bomb into the sea to catch fish. “We have engaged a squad to keep a watch in Siali area and check this practice. We have also sought the help of Fishery department in taking action against the fishermen who are into blast fishing, he added.