The Maharashtra fisheries department is to be empowered shortly to act against fishermen who are found to be violating the ban on catching fish listed as protected species.
Till now, the powers to deal with poaching were vested solely with the forest department under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. But with the forest department not equipped to handle cases on the seas, it was decided to involve the fisheries department, officials said. “A proposal has been prepared to amend the Wildlife Protection Act and include the department of fisheries to act against the violators,” said Pravin Pardeshi, principal secretary in the forest department. “The measure is not limited to taking preventive or penal action, but to also promote awareness about the law and the species that are protected and not allowed to be traded.”
The decision was taken at a meeting at the state secretariat attended by officials of the forest and fisheries departments, earlier this month.
Poaching in protected fish species is known to occur in Indian waters, but there has been little activity to curb this so far. Large and small fishing operators pick up and trade in these species depending on the demand. Olive Ridley turtles are such species in demand for their flesh as well as the eggs.
Under the act, the maximum punishment for poaching is seven years. According to the proposal, the authority to book offenders will rest with the assistant commissioner of fisheries. As this change does not require ratification by the state legislature, it can be completed within a short time.