State to reward fishermen for cutting nets to release shark
A group of fishermen in Raigad who accidentally caught a 25-foot-long whale shark and cut their nets to set it free last month may receive ₹25,000 from the state as compensation for their damaged equipment.
The incident took place on April 3, when fishermen from Bharadkhol village in Shrivardhan encountered the whale shark, 17 km off the Ratnagiri coast.
The whale shark — a protected species in India — got entangled in the six-kilometre-long gill net and the boat crew, headed by Rama Khopatkar, decided to cut it loose. They took videos of the operation.
“We learnt about the incident and the fishermen are entitled to compensation up to ₹25,000,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “Details of damage to their equipment are yet to be received from the state fisheries department.”
Ganesh B Nakhawa, chairman, Maharashtra Purse Seine Fishermen Welfare Association, of which Khopatkar is a member, said awareness about protected marine species needs to be spread among the fisherfolk.
“Gill nets are dangerous due to their length. Bigger ports are aware of this but not the smaller ones. Government officers need to come up with a Marathi catalogue about this to inform the fishing villages,” Nakhawa said.
The Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation of Maharashtra, an autonomous society that assists the state government with coastal marine conservation, has set aside ₹50 lakh for the protection of marine species.
Marine biologist Swapnil Tandel said Maharashtra has the highest whale shark interactions after Kerala, although most catch-and-release encounters are not documented.