Monday 15th Apr 2024
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Sri Lanka

Jaffna fishermen protest against proposal to allow Indian fishing boats in Sri Lankan waters

Fishermen in Sri Lanka's Jaffna district are protesting against Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda's proposal to allow Indian fishermen to engage in fishing in Sri Lankan waters. More than 40 fishermen's associations with a membership totalling about 8,000 are planning to drag their fishing boats to the road in protest against the move.
The fishermen's associations are concerned that allowing Indian boats to fish in Sri Lankan waters will have a direct impact on their livelihoods and on Sri Lanka's economy. They also fear that it would make a mockery of the International Maritime Boundary Line separating India and Sri Lanka and lead to bribery and corruption among officials and politicians in the issue of licences.

Fishermen's Association spokesman N. Varnagulasingam said the local fishermen had smaller boats and engaged in seasonal fishing. Any decision to grant permits to Indians would affect their livelihoods. Kayts Fishermen's Association secretary A. Annarasa said it would not be possible to monitor the Indian boats if permission was granted for a few Indian boats to enter Sri Lankan waters legally.

Minister Devananda's proposal came as a solution to illegal poaching by Indian fishermen and the indulgence in illegal fishing practices. The Minister's proposal came shortly after Indian State Minister for Fisheries L. Murugan recent Jaffna visit during which he opened the newly built Indian Cultural Centre in Jaffna.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry said talks were continuing with the Indian Government on resolving the fisheries issue. "We want them to ensure that bottom trawling is completely prohibited so that the marine life is protected". Northern Fishermen's Associations were of the view that the Government was caving into the Indian Government's pressure and complained the Sri Lankan fishermen would suffer because of this.

Fisheries Minister Devananda said the proposal to grant permits was a measure to reduce the tension between the fishermen on both sides by preventing bottom trawling taking place off the northern seas. He said President Ranil Wickremesinghe was due to take up the issue during a visit to India shortly.
Maldivian fishermen also shares the same concern as Sri Lankan fishermen, as Indian fishing boats often illegally fish in Maldivian waters.