News

Govt. working to free two Lankan fishers nabbed in TN

  • Proposes to free 2 Indians in local custody in exchange

By Dinitha Rathnayake

The Government of Sri Lanka is in the process of securing the release of two local fishermen who have been arrested in Tamil Nadu (TN) on charges of crossing into Indian waters.

Speaking to The Morning, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Douglas Devananda said the Government would consider a “give and take” policy during this process.

“A total of 23 Indian fishermen and two trawlers were seized for allegedly poaching in the country’s territorial waters, and another two were arrested recently due to the same reason. I have requested the President not to release the 23 fishermen; however, we might have to release the other two Indian fishermen who were arrested, in order to get the two Sri Lankan fishermen who are in Tamil Nadu released,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to All-Island Fisheries Association Convenor Rathna Gamage, around 1,500 bottom-trawling boats from India reach the Sri Lankan northern waters weekly while 8,000 trespass per month.

However, Devananda added that they did not observe any bottom-trawling boats from India since the Indian authorities have advised the fishermen to not reach Sri Lankan waters.

“For two weeks, we did not observe any Indian trawlers. Maybe, this is because of the new rules where we will fine the Indian fishermen and we will seize their boats,” he added.

The All-Island Fisheries Association also claimed that the Sri Lanka Navy is not taking necessary precautions to catch these illegal trawlers, adding: “Only 0.3% of the trawlers were arrested by the Navy, not more than that.”

However, speaking to The Morning, Navy Media Spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva said that necessary steps are being taken to arrest these illegal trawlers, noting, however, that patrols did not occur during the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

“We were able to arrest seven boats during this year up to now. The Navy was not actively participating in patrols due to the pandemic,” he said.

Hundreds of Sri Lankan fishermen from the North and East set out to sea en masse last (26) morning, in protest against Indian fishermen poaching in the seas of Sri Lanka. Fishermen were seen hoisting black flags on their vessels as they sailed from Mullaitivu to Point Pedro in protest against Indian fishermen, especially against “bottom-trawling”, a technique that is illegal and leaves ocean life completely devastated.