34 Indian fishermen arrested in November
“No end to Indian fishermen entering our waters” - SLN Spokesman Captain Akarm Alavi
By Shanika Sriyananda
Indian trawlers seized while poaching Sri Lankan territorial waters and damaging the country’s marine flora and fauna are to be auctioned soon, according to Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director General Lal Fernando.
Fernando told the Daily FT that a total of 61 Indian trawlers, some of which were sized as far back as May 2014, are held in the Department’s custody, and will not be released but auctioned instead.
Fernando said, “The Ministry has taken a firm decision not to release any trawler or mechanised boat caught violating the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) of Sri Lanka. We will release the Indian fishermen, but not their boats and trawlers,” he said.
“Though, we keep the trawlers in our custody to discourage them poaching into our waters, there is no reduction in the number of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters,” Fernando stated adding that most trawlers belong to Tamil Nadu politicians and strong supporters of political parties in Tamil Nadu.
He went on, “In Tamil Nadu, bottom trawling is prohibited as it damages fishing grounds and marine resources. They (Tamil Nadu politicians) want to protect their marine resources while encouraging their fishermen to engage in this harmful and illegal fishing method in Sri Lankan waters – this needs an urgent solution in order to protect Sri Lanka’s marine resources and our local fishing industry.”
Recently, 126 Indian fishermen caught poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters were released, but a further 26 arrested Indian fishermen were arrested last week.
SLN Spokesman Captain Akarm Alavi confirmed that the SLN arrested eight Indian fishermen in the waters near Delft islands in Jaffna on Sunday, for illegal fishing.
“They have been handed over to the officials of the Fisheries and Aquatic Department in Karainagar in Jaffna,” Alavi said.
According to Indian media, four of the eight fishermen are from Rameswaram and the rest from Pudukottai, and were near Lankan coast when arrested.
This is the sixth incident of Indian fishermen being arrested in Lankan waters during November. The SLN have arrested a total of 34 Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters during this month.
Indian fishermen harvest sea cucumbers, conch shells and pearl oysters by engaging in bottom trawling.
Fernando stated that the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ministry have had bi-lateral discussions on this long-standing issue with the Indian government and fishing authorities since 2010, but see no reduction in Indian fishermen poaching into Sri Lankan territorial waters.
“The Indian Central Government want to resolve the issue, but Tamil Nadu politicians want to drag the issue as their fishermen reap the benefits,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director of the Department Lal de Silva said approximately 3,000 Indian fishing boats including trawlers poach Lankan waters monthly, despite warnings from the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN).
From May to December 2014, 293 Indian fishermen were arrested by the SLN and from January 2015 to date over 300 have been arrested, detained and released.
“There is no end to Indian fishermen entering our waters. We issue warnings when we sight them but they do not heed our warnings. Therefore, we are compelled to arrest whoever crosses the IMBL of Sri Lanka. When we arrest fishermen, we will hand over them to the Fisheries Department,” Captain Alavi stressed.