Move planned to avoid conflicts with Sri Lankan Navy personnel midsea

In a bid to avoid conflicts with the Sri Lankan Navy personnel, Rameswaram fishermen on Saturday started experimenting a new time schedule for fishing in the Palk bay.

Contrary to the age-old practice of venturing into the sea early in the morning, the fishermen set sail after 2 pm on Saturday to have smaller time window for fishing and stay out of trouble.

The 11 fishermen associations and boat owners took a decision to this effect on Thursday after the Lankan Navy arrested 49 fishermen — 24 fishermen near Thalaimannar on Wednesday and 25 near Delft Island the next day — for allegedly fishing in their waters. The navy had also seized 10 trawlers.

After deliberations, the fishermen revised the timings hoping to minimise the chances of conflict with the Lankan Navy personnel as their presence in the high seas would be reduced by about eight hours. The Fisheries Department distributed fishing permits to 742 trawlers on Saturday. A few of them, however, stayed back in view strong winds, sources said.

This was the fourth fishing day in the new season that began on June 1. Besides displaying a board requesting the fishermen not to cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), the department officials personally spoke to them before they set out for fishing, asking them to stay within Indian maritime boundary, sources said.

“Considering that the fishermen have invested huge sums of money in refurbishing the boats and each fishing trip requires an expenditure of Rs.50,000 to Rs.70,000, we decided to switch over to the new time schedule,” said P.Sesu Raja, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association.

However, a section of the fishermen found it difficult to get adjusted to the revised time schedule, he said, and added that there were more than 3,500 fisherment ventured into the sea. In the new system, the fishermen could have only four dragging of nets, against seven draggings carried out previously, he noted.

U.Arulanandham, the local activist fighting for the cause of the fisherfolk, said the fishermen had to try the new timings as their livelihood was in question.

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