While 34 fishermen were caught fishing north of Point Pedro, the rest near Mullaitivu

As many as 65 fishermen from India were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on Tuesday night on charges of fishing in Sri Lankan waters.

A total of 34 fishermen in five boats were caught fishing north of Point Pedro, a town located in Jaffna, and another 31 fishermen, in four boats, were apprehended north-east of Mullaitivu.

On Wednesday, the two groups of fishermen were taken to Point Pedro and Trincomalee for legal action, Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya told The Hindu .

Ever since the 45-day ban on fishing imposed in Tamil Nadu ended on June 1, Indian fishermen being apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) has resurfaced and become a recurring issue.

Currently, a total of 21 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who were arrested on June 6, are in custody here. Their case is scheduled to be heard again on August 2.

Even as concern among the fishing community in Sri Lanka, particularly the Tamil-speaking north, has been growing, representatives of fishermen’s federations met Sri Lanka’s Economic Development Minister Basil Rakapaksa in New Delhi on July 5.

The fishermen were invited to Sri Lanka for talks with their counterparts and were scheduled to arrive during the first week of August, but sources here believe that their visit may be postponed as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is yet to give her approval.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the recent incidents pointed to an “organised act” by certain interested parties who were fishing in the troubled waters. Mr. Rajapaksa, who addressed editors of media organisations here at a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, said: “Our people in [the] North could not go fishing for a long time due to conflict. Now when they try to resume their livelihood, they have to face this new problem.” Sri Lanka, he said, always adhered to the policy of humane treatment of Indian fishermen who were detained by the Sri Lanka Navy for crossing the IMBL.

Staff Reporter adds from Karaikal

The Puducherry fisheries department here is set to impose penalty on the four fishing boats that were impounded along with its crew off Trincomalee. Speaking to The Hindu , Assistant Director Fisheries N. Elayaperumal said the department would impose a fine of Rs.5,000 on the offenders. The Puducherry government had recently issued rules governing penalties for breaching the IMBL, where repeated offences would lead to impounding the boat.

“There will be an agitation, but we shall go by rules to impose the fine of Rs.5,000 since all the four boats are first-time offenders,” Mr.Elayaperumal said. The Karaikal crew of 31 included four fishermen from Nagapattinam.