Fishing issues: Indo-Lanka talks to resume

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Sri Lanka and India are to relaunch discussions on the long-prevailing yet unsorted fishermen poaching issue between the two countries soon, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Douglas Devananda told The Morning.

The Minister has already held a discussion with the Indian High Commissioner in this regard and the Indian Government had sought two years to end the issue between Sri Lanka and India while having discussions with officials and fishermen. The discussions are to begin via video conferencing between the government officials of the two countries, he said.

Discussions have been held during the last decade but the fishermen and politicians have failed to find a permanent solution. Ongoing discussions have also failed to come to a conclusion on the matter which has prevailed since 2009.

According to the Minister, the relaunching of discussions has been delayed due to the Covid-19 situation.

As he said, the poaching issue has severely affected the country’s fishing resources.

The Indian poaching issue had also been discussed between Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Indian President Narendra Modi, during President Rajapaksa’s first foreign visit to India.

During the meeting, the two leaders have also discussed the fishermen issue at length. Indian fishermen are apprehended by Sri Lankan authorities on a regular basis for allegedly breaching the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), the imaginary line in the waters between India and Sri Lanka.

The clashes between Tamil Nadu fishermen and their Sri Lankan counterparts operating in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar area have been frequently reported since the end of the war, when restrictions on fishing in the Northern seas were lifted by Sri Lankan authorities.

There have been constant reports of fishermen from either side being arrested for poaching and jailed for weeks, months, and in some cases for over one year, until their release following governmental intervention.