By J. Arockiaraj
Forest department's anti-poaching measures in Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park (GoMMNP) are crippled by shortage of manpower and fuel for patrol boats. The rich coral reef biosphere is home to sea mammals like dugongs, dolphins, turtles and as many as 2,200 finfish varieties. Poachers target mainly sea cucumber and sea horses which are much-sought after ingredients in the cuisines of Far East.
The extent of poaching here could be guessed if one considers the crime statistics at the protected site. As many as 2,635 kg of sea cucumber and 28,000 sea horses were seized from the poachers in 2012 and 104 persons booked on charges of poaching. Forest department recorded 38 seizures. Boats and land vehicles used for transporting these species were also seized by the officials. Eleven seizures have so far been made in 2013, according to official sources.
Currently, there are more than 20 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 64 forest personnel for the protection of the 560-sq km national park. The national park, which is divided into four ranges with each range headed by a forest ranger, is headed by one wildlife warden. There is also an assistant conservator of forest. Further, the strike force that undertakes raids and seizures has a sanctioned strength of 14 officials, but it functions with merely four staff, department sources said.
Even worse, though the striking force has nine patrol boats, they are now anchored in the yard without fuel. Of the nine, three are petrol-run speed boats, another three with outboard engine run on kerosene and the rest, country boats with diesel engines. "Unfortunately, there is no provision for fuel and the petrol boats, though efficient, consume lot of money as they require 60 to 70 litres of petrol for a one-hour journey," said an official who did not want to be quoted. More....