Nine Indian fishermen have been detained by the Sri Lankan Navy off Thalaimannar early Sunday, on charges of poaching. Two trawlers in their possession have also been seized, officials at the Indian Consulate in Jaffna said.
With this, the total number of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody has come up to 82 as of Sunday morning. As many as 18 trawlers, including two seized on Sunday, are in the Sri Lankan Navy’s possession.
Sunday’s incident follows two separate arrests of Indian fishermen off Thalaimannar and Delft islands (Neduntheevu). While a total of 41 fishermen were arrested off Thalaimannar, as many as 32 were caught engaging in allegedly illegal fishing activist off Delft islands. A total of 16 trawlers – eight from each group – were also seized, according to Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya.
Officials at the Indian Consulate said the fishermen were likely to be handed over to magistrate courts in Mannar and Jaffna on Monday, for further legal action. They are in touch with the Sri Lankan Fisheries Department officials awaiting further details, they said.
When The Hindu contacted Sri Lanka's Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne on Sunday, he said the government had decided to confiscate trawlers used by the fishermen. “We will confiscate the trawlers and other fishing gear, but we will release the fishermen,” he said.
The Palk Bay conflict an important concern in Indo-Lanka relations over the last few years. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa met in New Delhi recently and discussed the issue — besides other bilateral matters — they underscored the need to address it, for it affects livelihoods of fishermen in both countries.
Fishermen of both countries have been engaged in discussions, but the second round of talks held in Colombo last month ended in a deadlock, as the fishermen could not arrive at a consensus over fishing methods and allegations of trespassing.