The Sri Lankan Navy on Thursday arrested 32 Indian fishermen and seized four trawlers near Pulmoddai, off Sri Lanka’s north-eastern seas, for alleged illegal fishing activity. They were taken to Trincomalee for legal action.

The arrest comes days after 37 fishermen from Rameswaram and Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu were arrested off Thalaimannar and the Deft Islands on Monday.

Observing that the issue of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters had become a major problem for fishermen of the northern province, Sri Lanka's Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Rajitha Senaratne told The Hindu on Thursday: “When Sri Lankan fishermen are arrested in India for poaching, and they ask us for help, we tell them we cannot offer any assistance. They have engaged in an illegal activity and will have to face the consequences.”

India is yet to get back on its promise of facilitating talks between fishermen of both countries, he said, adding: “Importantly, India has to host a meeting of the Joint Working Group on fisheries soon.”

The Joint Working Group, which was set up by both governments to find long-term solutions to the issue of poaching, was to meet once in six months, with representatives from both countries. The last meeting was held in January 2012 in Colombo and it is now India’s turn to host the meeting but it was delaying the process, the Minister said.

Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya told The Hindu that the navy, over the last few weeks, observed an increase in the number of trawlers that came into Sri Lankan waters. “There seems to be an increase now both, near the north-western and northern-eastern seas,” he said.