Kendrapara (Odisha), Aug 24: Thirteen fishermen were arrested for alleged trespassing and illegal fishing in the prohibited water bodies of Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district.
Stepping up the vigil in the area, a patrol squad of forest officials intercepted four fishing vessels, including three mechanised ones, and took the 13 fishermen into custody on Saturday, forest officials said today.
The fishermen were allegedly indulging in illegal fishing within the protected forest area in the core area of the national park, they said adding the interception took place in the northern part along the Ekakula deltaic region.
The water inlet happens to be an ideal habitat for salt water crocodiles and other aquatic animals. "Any fishing activity in habitation corridors of crocodiles is a punishable offence under the Wildlife Protection Act.
It has been found in the past that crocodiles get entangled in fishing nets and they perish in the process," Divisional Forest Officer of Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) forest division, B P Acharya, said.
The arrested persons are traditional inland fishermen and they belong to Dangmal, Gupti and Prabhati villages close to the national park, he said.
The accused persons were forwarded to court under different sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the DFO said. Apart from the mechanised fishing vessels, a 50-metre-long net and other fishing equipment from the fishermen were also seized, a forest official said.
The DFO said the forest department has intensified its vigil on trespassing into prohibited territories to ensure the safety of the flora, fauna and the fragile eco-system of Bhitarkanika.
People living in the periphery of the park are also sensitised and advised to minimise their dependence on forest and adjacent water bodies, he said.