Fifteen fishermen have been taken into custody by Forest Department personnel in a mid-sea interception of unlawful fishing activity along the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Odisha.

Three fishing trawlers were seized along the prohibited marine sanctuary area near unmanned Ekakulanasi Island on Friday by the patrolling unit engaged by the Forest Department, a forest official said.

Prohibition on sea fishing remains in force round the year within the marine sanctuary limits.

Sea patrolling is stepped up within Gahirmatha marine sanctuary water territory during September-May every year in view of the annual mass nesting season of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.

The arrested fishermen are native of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district, the official said.

The fishing vessels had trespassed into prohibited sanctuary corridors flouting the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act and mandatory rules of marine sanctuary, they said.

They were sent to jail custody on Saturday.

Earlier, 167 fishing trawlers were seized from Gahirmatha area during turtle nesting season (September 1-May 31) and 348 fishermen were taken into custody.

The crew of fishing vessels and marine fishermen communities have been warned not to venture into marine sanctuary area even though turtle nesting season is over.