Complain about poaching by Indian fishermen in their waters
Representatives of some fishermen associations from Sri Lanka's northern province met officials of the Indian High Commission here on Wednesday and complained about the continued poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters.
They met Counsellor (Consular) Sunil Achaya and asked him to impress upon the Indian government that the livelihood of fishermen in the northern province was at stake.
Later, talking to Indian journalists at the residence of Minister for Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda, the representatives said that they were willing to conditionally allow Indian fishermen to use Sri Lankan waters.
“They should not use the bottom trawling nets. They can use the nets we use,” said S. Thavaratnam, president of the Jaffna District Fishermen's Society. The Jaffna fishermen use much smaller boats and carry nets, considered rudimentary by fishing industry standards. This will not be viable for the Indian fishermen.
Some of the Indian trawlers involved in the February incident, when 136 Indian fishermen and 25 trawlers were held by local fishermen, are fishing in the same waters again, said N.V. Subramaniam, president of the South Western Fishermen's Co-operative. There were many other places that the fishermen from Tamil Nadu could go to, but they invariably came very close to Sri Lankan shores, he said.
Mr. Devananda said that he was in a fix. “When the Indian fishermen were released last time, I told my people that in a month, I will make sure there is no poaching. Now the same thing is happening again,” he said, adding that though he could talk to leaders of cooperatives, it was not necessary that all fishermen accept the suggestions of the cooperative. He warned that when emotions ran high and when livelihood was at stake anything could happen.
The northern province has many fishermen cooperatives, and not all of them agree with Mr. Devananda. According to some the situation is not as serious as projected by the associations. Since talks between fishermen of both sides have been effective in the past, efforts are on to send a team of Tamil Nadu fishermen to Sri Lanka to sort out the issue. This is likely to happen ahead of the meeting of the Joint Working Group on fisheries in New Delhi, scheduled for March 28.