The Maharashtra government has given compensation of Rs 44 lakh to as many as 288 fishermen — for setting protected marine species which were caught in their nets free – in the past three years. This is part of the state’s efforts to save the marine ecosystem and several protected species in it. The marine species released by the fishermen – from December 2018 till March this year — include Whale Shark, Giant Guitarfish, Humpback Dolphin and Indo-Pacific finless porpoise, among others. All of them are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The compensation scheme is a joint effort by the Mangrove Cell and Mangrove Foundation, and the Fisheries Department of Maharashtra. Monetary compensation up to Rs 25,000 is given to fishermen as they have to cut off their fishing nets in order to release marine species that get accidentally tangled in their fishing nets. Frequently, protected marine species like turtles, sharks, dolphins, Sawfish and Guitarfish, among others, get caught in fishing nets, said an official of the Fisheries Department. Catching and trading these species is a crime and the fishermen are supposed to release them in the sea. But in the process, they usually have to cut their net and hence they incur losses as they have to procure a new net.
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Due to this, many fishermen end up not releasing the marine species back into the sea. The scheme was introduced to encourage fishermen to release the protected species, for which they receive compensation.
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According to the official, from December 2018 to March 2022, a total of 293 cases were received for compensation by the Fisheries Department, out of which 288 fishermen were given compensation amounting in total to Rs 44.23 lakh. The marine animals released include 158 Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, 74 Green Sea Turtles, five Hawksbill Turtles, two Leatherback turtles, 38 whale sharks, six Giant Guitarfish, one Humpback Dolphin and four Indo Pacific Finless porpoise back into the sea.
The official further said that during fishing, if any fisherman releases a rare fish or marine animal entangled in his net, and if the fishing net is cut or damaged in the process, the fisherman should file an application before the Chief Conservator of Forests, Mangrove Protection Cell, following which the state government will provide compensation up to Rs 25,000.
In order to apply for compensation, fishermen are required to provide details of the fishing licence, boat licence, exact location of the incident, including GPS coordinates, details of the fish or animal that was caught, and video and photographs of the release.
In order to avoid misuse of the scheme, the government had last year issued a fresh resolution in connection with the process of compensation. The compensation structure was also revised and it was decided that fishermen will get the compensation amount depending upon the size and type of species they have released.
The maximum compensation is Rs 25,000 while the minimum compensation is Rs 8,000. The government had also mentioned in the GR that each fisherman can apply for compensation only thrice a year.