To get snapshots of the daily lives of underwater mammals and fish, the Maharashtra government for the first time is planning to geo-tag locations in the sea where rare and protected mammals and fishes are found. The fisheries department will create awareness among fishermen asking them to stay away from those areas. Some of the locations could also be turned into eco-tourism sites if there are frequent sightings of protected species.
At present, the state forest department’s Mangrove Foundation compensates fishermen who cut their nets to free these protected species like Olive Ridley turtles, dolphins and saw fish which are caught in them. These fishermen are granted an amount of up to Rs 25,000 to compensate for the damage to their nets. However, they have to produce photographic evidence to claim this compensation.
“Based on approvals to be granted by the state government, we are planning to identify and geo-tag the latitude and longitude of the locations where these fish and other animals are caught. Awareness will be created among fisherfolk against fishing in these areas where frequent sightings take place to protect these endangered species,” Atul Patne, Commissioner, Fisheries told The Free Press Journal.
Patne said that in case of frequent sightings of protected species like dolphins in a particular area or zone, that location could be promoted as an eco-tourism site and perhaps even an ocean sanctuary. Tourism and water sports operators could organise tours to these areas.
“We are planning to involve the local community in this conservation effort to make this a participatory effort and boost this initiative further,” he explained.
Patne said like the marine response group of the mangrove cell, the fisheries department was planning to set up treatment facilities for such endangered species in each district. These could be created in the department’s ponds and hatcheries. The Maharashtra Animal and Fishery Sciences University (MAFSU) will be roped in for getting veterinary doctors for these facilities.
Maharashtra has a coastline of 720 km with 173 fish landing centres. The area suitable for marine fishing is 1.12 lakh sq km. The state has around 17,238 marine fishing boats in operation, of which 13,613 were mechanised.