Nagapattinam fishermen fear that turmoil in Sri Lanka may trigger mid-sea trouble

July 14, 2022 08:06 pm | Updated 08:06 pm IST

Fishermen from Nagapattinam district are understood to be exercising restraint in venturing into the sea against the backdrop of economic and political turmoil in Sri Lanka.

In recent days the Fisheries Department had reached out to the Indian Navy to sensitise the local fishermen to the hazards in getting close to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

"We have been advising fishermen to take along life-saving and communication equipment and identity cards unfailingly," a senior official of Fisheries Department said.

There is indeed an element of fear among the fishermen since the mechanised boats costing between Rs. 60 lakh and Rs. 80 lakh that get confiscated after crossing IMBL by Sri Lankan Navy becomes unusable after the lengthy duration of detention by the Sri Lankan authorities.

There is, nevertheless, a cause for comfort for the Fisheries Department since the fishermen are kept in check by the respective elders (nattars) of the hamlets, the official said.

The elders in the hamlets have been cautioning the fishers against breaching the IMBL, by apprising them about the travails faced by those who had in recent months been arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities. It has come to light that the arrested fishermen were not being fed properly in the Sri Lankan jails.

In some hamlets, fines are also imposed on the erring fishermen, who have to necessarily comply to avoid isolation, sources said.

However, there are also instances of a section of fishermen venturing beyond the IMBL emboldened by the absence of Sri Lankan fishermen in the sea due to the acute shortage of petrol and diesel.

Those among the fishermen who had ventured beyond the IMBL have recounted that patrolling by Sri Lankan Navy had also become invisible due to fuel shortage, said Durgeswaran, a fisherman belonging to Kodiakarai.

The trespassing of IMBL by a section of fishermen from Indian side taking advantage of the situation has caused extreme consternation among the coastal community in Sri Lanka, Mr. Durgeswaran said.

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