For the third time, the remand of 26 fishermen from Tamil Nadu – who were held by the Sri Lankan Navy on April 5 – has been extended, now upto May 6.

The case came up for hearing at the magistrate court in Kayts Island on Monday. It was last heard on Friday, when simultaneously, the magistrate court in Mannar extended the remand of the 30 fishermen from Rameswaram apprehended on April 6, upto May 6.

The issue of Tamil Nadu’s fishermen being caught engaging in allegedly illegal fishing activity has spurred much concern and noise in the state, with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi repeatedly putting pressure on the Centre to find a solution to the problem.

In addition to pointing to the Sri Lankan Navy’s hardening stance on the issue, the extensions by the magistrate courts in Sri Lanka also underscores the need for both, an immediate and a long-term solution to the problem, observe senior officials in New Delhi. Tamil Nadu, in their opinion, has an important role to play. “The Tamil Nadu government must engage more with the fisherfolk and sensitise them to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL),” an official said.

Experts are of the view that unless fishermen from both countries meet and hold discussions, it would be difficult to arrive at a long-term solution. V. Suryanarayan, senior professor (retired), Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras, who has been advocating the idea of Palk Bay as common heritage for both countries, said: “This is a livelihood issue of fishermen of both, India and Sri Lanka and it is important that their views be taken into consideration.”

In March 2011, a delegation of fishermen from Tamil Nadu met their counterparts from north Sri Lanka here, and pleaded for more time to stop fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters, as they were being trained in tuna fishing and other deep-sea fishing techniques that would open up more options in the sea. However, two years later, the problem persists and Indian fishermen are often found encroaching in the Sri Lankan territorial waters.