In two separate incidents, the Sri Lankan Navy on Wednesday detained 22 fishermen of Nagapattinam and Karaikal for allegedly fishing in their territory.
According to sources, nine fishermen had ventured into the sea from Keechankuppam in Nagapattinam district on a boat owned by S. Chinnadurai, 60. When they were fishing near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), a patrolling vessel of the island navy surrounded the boat. All fishermen were subsequently detained and taken to Jaffna for further questioning.
Boat owner Chinnadurai and his son Sivabharathi were among those detained.
In the second incident, 13 fishermen of Nagapattinam and Karaikal were detained for entering into the Sri Lankan waters. They had set sail from Karaikal port on Wednesday morning.
Two trawlers seized
The Sri Lankan Navy said its patrol teams seized two Indian trawlers with 22 fishermen, while “poaching in Sri Lankan waters”, on the night of February 23. “Considering the impact of foreign fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters on the local fishing community and threats to the biodiversity of the country’s marine environment, the Navy has been conducting regular patrols and operations to curb such illegal activities of foreign fishermen in Sri Lankan waters,” a statement said. The Navy said it “remains committed to carrying out regular operations” with a view to “safeguarding the security” in Sri Lankan waters, while “protecting” marine resources and livelihoods of local fishermen.
While the Navy has stepped up patrol, making frequent arrests in the Palk Strait, Wednesday’s development comes amid escalating tensions between fishermen of northern Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu after the death of two Jaffna fishermen allegedly in mid-sea clashes last month.
Jaffna fishermen held a massive protest early February demanding stringent action against those engaging in illegal fishing, especially using bottom trawlers.
Earlier this week Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin sought External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s intervention in ensuring the early release of Tamil Nadu fishermen. “There have been four such incidents of apprehension by the Sri Lankan Navy in the last 30 days, in which seven boats and 47 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were apprehended,” the Chief Minister noted.
Protests in Lanka
Meanwhile, northern Sri Lankan fishermen continue to protest against Indian trawlers fishing along their coastline. More recently, fishermen’s associations in the island nation’s southern areas have extended solidarity to their northern counterparts, by holding demonstrations in capital Colombo.
On Wednesday, Tamil parliamentarians and civil society members joined a protest in Colombo, outside the Fort Railway station, organised by the National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO).