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SL to settle the Indian fishermen poaching issue without going round in circles 

Indo Lanka fishermen’s  issue of violating Sri Lankan territorial waters and continuing of illegal fishing has reached the boiling point as no concrete action has been taken by successive governments going round in circles for over five decades.  

The poaching by Indian trawlers in the waters of Sri Lanka and the fishing community protesting against the failure of the government authorities to prevent such intrusions have become  headache for both government at present , official sources said.

The Palk Bay and Palk Strait areas in Sri Lankan waters are relatively shallow and rich with prawns.  Sri Lanka loses an estimated Rs.5.3 billion each year due to poaching. 

This money could have lifted the standard of living of the Northern fishing community with potential fish exports and revenue in foreign exchange.

Northern fishermen protesting against Indian poaching in Lankan waters more than five decades ago, in June 1974, Sri Lanka and India jointly demarcated the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between the two countries. 

Still, the poaching by Indian fishermen is continuing in the northern waters of Sri Lanka. The law enforcement agencies are regularly making attempts to prevent it. India and Sri Lanka had several discussions but were not able to find a lasting solution. 

All possible steps will be taken to prevent Indian fishermen from illegal fishing in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka, by breaching the maritime boundaries, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Fisheries emphasised on Wednesday (Feb. 16).

Discussions in this regard will be held with the Government of India in the coming weeks, Indu Ratnayake, the Secretary to the Fisheries Ministry categorically stated. The Indian Government has also agreed to hold discussions, according to Ratnayake.

The authorities are focusing on future steps that could be taken with regard to the vessels and fishing gear seized by security forces, 

The fishermen issue is a contentious one in ties between India in Sri Lanka, and the fresh arrests come as local immigration officials are making arrangements to repatriate 56 Indian fishermen who were arrested in December

The Sri Lankan Navy has detained 68 Indian fishermen and seized 21 trawlers off the Tamil Nadu coast over the last few days. 

The Indian  government urgently needs to dial Colombo and secure their release. It also needs to sit with the Tamil Nadu government and work out a solution to the crisis brewing in the waters between the Tamil Nadu coast and Sri Lanka.

Colombo has been accusing Indian fishermen of poaching in its waters. And its navy has been proactive in arresting Indian fishermen and capturing Indian vessels on charges of trespassing — last year, as many as 74 Indians were arrested and 11 boats seized. 

The Ministry of External Affairs negotiated their release but the problem is far from settled.The crux of the matter seems to be overcapacity on the Indian side and the building scarcity in the Palk Strait due to over fishing.

Colombo has been complaining that Indian trawlers violate the IMBL (international maritime boundary line) and fish in Lankan waters, depriving its own boats of catch. 

In October last year year, Lankan fishermen, most of them Tamils, launched a flotilla from Mullaitivu to Point Pedro in the north to protest the alleged poaching. 

Sri Lanka’s fisheries minister, Douglas Devananda, reportedly raised the issue in a meeting with US diplomat Martin Kelly recently. New Delhi and Colombo had instituted a Joint Working Group (JWG) to address issues related to fishing in 2016.

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