Even as representatives of Tamil Nadu fishermen are all set to leave for Colombo for the second round of talks with their Sri Lankan counterparts to find a solution to the dispute over fishing in Palk Bay, fishermen here keep their fingers crossed. For, they fear Sri Lankan fishermen may harden their stand on trawling in Palk Bay.

Albeit the tough stand taken by Sri Lanka on releasing 172 fishermen arrested after the first round of talks in Chennai on January 27, representatives of fishermen are gearing up for the the talks on Thursday.

A couple of representatives, who took part in the first round of talks, said the Sri Lankan fishermen had vehemently opposed the Tamil Nadu fishermen fishing in Palk Bay using trawling.

“But we expect them to give us reasonable time to explore the possibility of deep sea fishing and alternative livelihood before phasing out trawling in Palk Bay,” a fisherman leader told The Hindu.

The dispute over fishing in Palk Bay could be averted for the ‘time being’ if both the fishermen were allowed to fish with no International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) restrictions, he suggested.

The Sri Lankan fishermen should keep off the sea when the Indian fishermen set out to the sea and vice versa to avoid clashes, the leader said. “We can even restrict our fishing to two days a week. Using gill net or drift net was not possible in the shallow Palk Bay, he pointed out.

Tamil Nadu fishermen cannot afford to confront Sri Lankan fishermen and their navy for long. Using tuna long liner and multi-day drift net fishing in deep sea could be the only alternatives for peaceful fishing, said U. Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said.

Kanyakumari fishermen have switched over to deep sea fishing off the Andaman and Nicobar islands, sailing 1,200 nautical miles. Similarly, Tharuvaikulam fishermen sail through Palk Bay for 374 nautical miles to fish in the deep sea off Pedro Bank, he said. For Rameswaram fishermen, Pedro Bank is 194 nautical miles away, but they could not switch over to deep sea fishing for want of paraphernalia.

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