A salvage team of 72 fishermen has left for Sri Lanka to bring back 24 boats anchored in Kayts and Kankesanthurai after they were confiscated by the Lankan authorities when they arrested the Tamil Nadu fishermen in July-August last year.

Escorted by an Indian Coast Guard (ICG) vessel, the salvage team, comprising 29 fishermen from Rameswaram and Mandapam in five boats and 43 fishermen from Jagadapattinam in Pudukottai district in nine boats, left for Lanka on Thursday evening. The ICG would hand over the fishermen at the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL) in the early hours of Friday, after which the Lankan Navy would escort them to salvage the boats. U. Arulanandham, president, Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), said 10 boats of Rameswaram and Mandapam fishermen were anchored in Kayts and the 14 boats of Jagadapattinam fishermen were anchored in Kankesanthuri (five boats) and Kayts (nine boats).

The fishermen applied to the External Affairs Ministry on March 3, seeking permission to salvage the boats, he said, adding “Thanks to the quick steps taken by the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department, the salvage team could be deputed at the earliest”.

He said another batch of 21 fishermen from Rameswaram and Mandapam would leave for Sri Lanka in four boats on March 29 to salvage five boats anchored in Mannar and two boats in Talaimannar. The salvage operation to bring back the boats was a significant development as the Tamil Nadu fishermen had lost as many as 85 boats, confiscated by the Lankan authorities when they arrested the fishermen in 2004, Mr. Arulanandham said.