10k aquatic mammals fall victim to fishing vessels each year: Government
Around 9,000 to 10,000 aquatic mammals like whales and dolphins get snagged by mechanised fishing vessels every year across India, according to the Union environment ministry.
So-called marine megafauna also get stranded on shore either alive or dead for reasons such as fisheries bycatch (marine species snagged in mechanised boats unintentionally during fishing), boat strikes, noise pollution, disease and disorientation, according to a ministry document on stranding guidelines released on Thursday.
India also has other important and endangered megafauna like dugongs and whale sharks whose population status is unknown, say the guidelines.
Implementing stranding guidelines will involve establishment of a national stranding centre which will gather information on stranding of marine animals and their bycatch, funding of rescue activities and so on. It will also involve establishment of state stranding centres, local stranding centres and rapid response teams. Once a forest official or coast guard receives information about a stranding, they should coordinate with the local stranding networks to respond to the event with the help of a rapid response team if a mammal is still alive. The coordinator must take the responsibility of crowd management at the stranding site.
The guidelines also aim to reduce bycatch of marine animals in fishing gear by spreading awareness among fishing communities and to identify the bycatch and stranding hotspots of each state and UT to depute volunteers .
The ministry has also released the National Marine Turtle Action Plan 2021-26 which identifies all important sea turtle nesting habitats. India has a coastline of more than 7,500 km. Around 40,000 to 11,00,000 turtles nest on India’s beaches ever year. The goal of the action plan is to conserve turtle species and their habitats; improve understanding of the species and their habitats; and enhance sustainable tourism and so on. Both the marine megafauna stranding guidelines and the marine turtle action plan gain significance because the ministry of earth sciences (MoES) released a draft Blue Economy policy in January.
The Blue Economy policy plans to boost island tourism, marine biotechnology, deep sea mining and the ocean energy sector through innovative financing and business models. The last date for public comment on the draft is February 27.
“The Centre’s economic planning is blind to ecological concerns and ecological plans don’t spell out the impacts of industrial and infrastructure expansion. Action plans draw their direction from the problems or vulnerabilities that they are designed to address,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research.
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- Erection of a 40-km-long electric fence around the part of the reserve known most for man-animal encounters has also helped in containing the incidents.
- The road, HT learned, has been constructed by a contractor to facilitate the installation of new sewer lines, for which wastewater from existing sewers is being pumped out in the salt lakes.
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