Sri Lankan fishermen demand confiscation of Indian vessels to control illegal fishing

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SUSITHA FERNANDO

Colombo– Sri Lankan fishermen on Wednesday held protests in Colombo, demanding the government implement strict laws to confiscate Indian fishing vessels to stop Indian fishermen entering their waters.

Tamil fishermen from the north and the Sinhalese fishermen from the south jointly protested and urged the government to strictly implement two laws, amended in 2017 and 2018, to ban bottom trawling and introducing hefty fines, as well as confiscation of boats and fishing gear.

Herman Kumara, President of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, told IANS that the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act which was amended in 2017, saw reduction in Indian boats coming into Sri Lankan waters. He said the particular laws banned bottom trawling, a harmful fishing practice, and introduced hefty fines, including confiscating the boat.

“This effectively discouraged Indian fishermen entering Sri Lankan waters,” he said.

Kumara also charged that it was not the poor fishermen in India but rich businessmen and politicians are behind this illegal practice and poaching.

“We know Indian fishermen are poor and this is their living. But the main racketeers are Indian politicians and businessmen who sent them here.”

He said that officials from the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday informed that cabinet paper has been passed to ban illegal fishing vessels from India.

“Presidential Secretariat officials who met group of fishermen representatives have said according to the cabinet paper laws would be introduced to ban illegal fishing and compensation would be awarded on behalf of the fishermen who were killed. Presidential Secretariat representatives also had assured to have a bilateral discussion with the Indian government on the issue,” Kumara said.

Meanwhile, 29 fishermen have been arrested by Sri Lankan Navy in February so far with last incident being on Saturday (February 19) where six Indian fishermen were arrested. During the arrest made in seas off northwest of the Kovilan Lighthouse in Jaffna, the Sri Lankan Navy had seized an Indian dhow with six Indian fishermen.

During February, the Sri Lankan Navy also impounded six vessels.

The fishing issue between India and Sri Lanka is a long dragging contentious issue where Indian fishermen allege that the Sri Lankan Navy fires at them. In early February, the issue was discussed between Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris in New Delhi. (IANS)

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