Kendrapara: Odisha forest officials arrested 40 fishermen for illegal fishing in the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary famous for worlds largest nesting ground for endangered Olive Ridley turtle . Fishing has been banned in the zone in Kendrapara district as the annual mass nesting of the endangered turtles is fast approaching.

The Rajnagar Mangrove(Wildlife) Divisional Forest Officer, Bimal Prasanna Acharya, said the forest patrol squad has arrested 40 fishermen and  seized five deep sea trawlers during the crackdown on Monday.

With this a total of 350 fishermen have been arrested and 70 trawlers have been seized since the state government clamped a ban on trawl fishing along the 20-km stretch between Dhamra river mouth and Devi river mouth since November 1, 2017.

The Forest Department has deployed two high-speed boats to patrol the marine waters of Gahirmatha sanctuary and also set up 16 patrolling camps off the coast in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts.

In another development, female turtles have been sighted close to the beach near Gahirmatha sea waters in large numbers ahead of the mass nesting season.

The DFO said, “The female turtles are found congregating in sea water within a kilometre’s distance from the nesting beach,”  and added the mass nesting is expected any time now.

With the weather condition conducive for mass nesting, the nesting ground at outer Wheeler Island of Gahirmatha is perfectly ideal for nesting with the beach getting elongated following natural accretion process.

Last year, 6.04 lakh turtles had turned up for their annual sojourn for mass nesting during March. The female turtles had emerged from the sea to crawl on to the serene beach and dig pits to lay eggs.