SRI LANKA Jaffna fishermen against permits for Indian fishing boats

The proposal was presented by the Minister of Fisheries to solve illegal activities. Trawling by fishermen in Tamil Nadu has a huge environmental impact on fishery resources. Sri Lankan fishermen believe the government is caving in to Indian pressure.

Colombo () – More than 40 fishermen’s associations in the Jaffna district, with nearly 8,000 members, decided to drag their fishing boats onto the road to protest against the proposal of the Minister of Fisheries, Douglas Devananda, which would allow Indians to fish in Sri Lankan waters.

Under the proposal, which was billed as a solution to poaching and illegal practices by Indian fishermen, permits will be issued to vessels based in Tamil Nadu, and with limited motor capacity, to fish in the Palk Strait, that divides the two countries.

Selvanathan Thurairajah, Kumaran Anandappa and Samuel Karthigesu, representatives of the northern fishing associations, told that “there will be a clash over the minister’s decision to allow ‘small Indian boats’ to fish in Sri Lankan waters under a license system that negatively affects” their livelihood. The fishermen added that they will not accept permits to be granted to the Indians to fish in the northern waters “not even for an hour.”

K. Balachandran, Chairman of the Karainagar Pradhesiya Sabha, a local council, wrote to Indian Consul General Raakesh Natraj last week requesting compensation for damages caused by Indian fishermen to locals worth Rs 11 crore (less than 29 thousand euros).

Senior Fisheries Ministry officials said that “there is currently already a dispute with Tamil Nadu trawler owners worth crores of rupees in connection with fishing in the Palk Strait. This situation affects the Sri Lankan economy.” and mocks the international maritime boundary line that separates India from Sri Lanka.”

However, these same sources added that “Minister Devananda has studied some proposals regarding the identification of the location of the fishing zones, the number of vessels, the regulatory authority and a possible joint patrol mechanism by the Navy. of Sri Lanka and the Indian Coast Guard, which will be discussed at the next meeting of the joint working group of both countries.

“Under no circumstances will Indian trawlers be allowed to enter Sri Lankan waters as this practice is prohibited due to the enormous damage it causes to marine resources. The Minister believes that Sri Lankan fishermen and the India can reach a win-win situation. Their top priority is to protect the interests of northern fishermen,” the sources said.

On many occasions, the Sri Lankan authorities have detained Indian fishermen, who were released after a series of diplomatic meetings between representatives of the two countries.

“These trawlers use large nets that sweep the ocean floor, also catching many young fish, affecting the reproductive cycle and depleting marine resources,” explained environmentalist Ratnajeevan Kumaravelu.

According to experts, “licensed vessels would be relatively small and equipped with minimally powered engines, unlike Tamil Nadu trawlers, which have large-capacity engines and iron trawling equipment.”

Foreign Ministry sources stated that “talks continue with the Indian government to resolve the fishing issue. We must ensure that trawling is completely prohibited, to protect marine life.”

However, the northern fishermen’s associations believe that “the government is giving in to pressure from India.” This problem will affect Sri Lankan fishermen a lot.” Minister Devananda said the permit proposal is “a measure to reduce tension between fishermen on both sides and to prevent trawling in the northern seas.”

Senior government sources added that President Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to address the issue during his visit to India.

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Written by Editor TLN

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