The Rameswaram Mechanised boat fishermen, who had been staying away from the sea since February 13 as decided at the bilateral talks held between representatives of State fishermen with their Sri Lankan counterparts on January 27 in Chennai, resumed fishing on Saturday, two weeks ahead of the stipulated period, ‘violating’ the pact.

After staying away from the sea for a fortnight, the mechanised boat fishermen have set out for fishing from the fishing jetty in Rameswaram, armed with fishing permits issued by the fisheries department. Sources in the department said it has issued fishing permits to 690 boats.

Representatives of Mechanised boat fishermen from the districts of Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Karaikal, who took part in the talks, had decided to stay away from fishing in the Palk Bay for a month till March 13 to take the talks to the next level to find an amicable solution to the dispute over fishing in the Palk Bay.

The Sri Lankan fishermen wanted their Indian counterparts to abstain from fishing for a month as a confidence-building measure. However, the fishermen could not stick to their decision. As the fishermen in other districts started venturing into the sea, Rameswaram fishermen also resumed fishing.

The fishermen, who just had ten fishing days in January and February, could not afford to stay away from fishing for long as they have no other means of livelihood, Mr P. Sesu Raja, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, who took part in the bilateral talks, said.

The fishermen were forced to resume fishing as the workers were desperate and started moving to other districts, seeking jobs, he said. However, it has been decided to restrict the fishing in Indian waters and ensure that they would not cause any disturbance to their Lankan counterparts, he said.

This should not pose any hurdle to the second round of talks, he said and urged the Central and State governments to take steps to secure the release of all the 121 fishermen, including 116 fishermen arrested by the Lankan navy since January 30 and arrange for the second round of talks at the earliest.

Expressing disappointment, Mr U. Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said the fishermen resuming fishing before March 13 amounted to violation of the agreement reached in the first round of talks. The fishermen, however, should ensure that they do not cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), he said.

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