Rs20 lakh paid to fishermen in Maharashtra for releasing protected marine species
A total of 135 fishermen across coastal districts in Maharashtra were compensated for releasing protected marine species caught as bycatch back into the ocean during the financial year 2020-21, as per the recently published annual report of the Mangrove Foundation, a registered society functioning under the aegis of the state forest department’s mangrove cell. These fishermen were compensated to the tune of ₹2,041,800.
“Of the 135 cases processed for compensation in the fiscal year 2020–21, 72 cases were of the release of Olive Ridley sea turtles, 36 cases were of green sea turtle, three cases of Hawksbill turtle, two cases of Guitarfish and 22 cases were of the release of the whale shark,” states the annual report. Of these, the majority of cases were reported from Sindhudurg and Thane districts, where 47 and 39 protected marine specimens were released respectively. In Mumbai, only one such case was recorded during the last year, when a single Olive Ridley turtle was released after getting caught in a fishing net.
As of April 2, this year, the total number of cases processed under the state government scheme stood at 178. That number has now grown to just over 200 cases, said Harshal Karve, a marine biologist with the Mangrove Foundation. “The scheme was started in 2018, but the most number of compensations were given out in the last financial year after we undertook outreach exercises with the fishing community. There is a similar scheme in Gujarat for releasing whale sharks, but Maharashtra is the only coastal state which compensates fisherfolk for release of all protected marine species.”
According to the compensation scheme, if any fisherman finds a protected marine animal caught in their nets, they are entitled to compensation up to ₹25,000 if they release the animal and their fishing gear is damaged in the process. All applicants have to submit video graphic and photographic evidence of the incident, along with the GPS coordinates of where the animal was caught and released along with details of their boat license.
In January this year, the state government revised the compensation structure of the scheme, and fisherfolk are now reimbursed based on the size and degree of protection according to the animal under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. In all, over ₹26 lakhs have been doled out as compensation under the scheme so far. Other species which have been released (outside of the last financial year) include two leatherback turtles and the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin.