India on Saturday informed Sri Lanka that it has taken measures to stop bottom trawling by its fishermen in the waters near the Sri Lankan coastline. During a weekend meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) in Delhi, officials expressed satisfaction over the release of Indian fishermen by Colombo, and reiterated the need to bring the rest of them back to India.
“Recent initiatives taken by the Government of India to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay area include the launch of a programme on diversification of bottom trawlers into deep-sea fishing vessels for tuna long lining under the Blue Revolution Scheme, construction of Mookaiyur and Poompuhar fishing harbours, and capacity-building programmes for fishermen of the Palk Bay area in deep sea tuna long lining. Besides, fresh registration for bottom trawlers in the Palk Bay area has been banned by the Government of Tamil Nadu,” said a joint press communiqué issued after the Ministerial meeting held on Saturday.
The Ministerial meet was attended by India’s Minister of Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh and his Sri Lankan counterpart, Mahinda Amaraweera, which came after the third JWG meeting on October 13.
India also informed that schemes promoting seaweed farming and sea-cage farming have begun in the Palk Bay area to wean away fishermen from deep-sea trawling.
Bottom trawling by Indian fishermen had emerged as a major issue because of the disruptive impact it left on the coastal communities of Sri Lanka.
Earlier in July, Sri Lanka banned bottom trawling, increasing the chances of interception of more Indian bottom trawlers.
The JWG was co-chaired by Secretary-level officials of India and Sri Lanka, in which the Indian delegates praised Sri Lanka for releasing fishermen from Tamil Nadu and urged the release of the fishermen remaining in the custody of the Sri Lankan government.
The JWG mechanism commenced on November 5, 2016, to find a permanent solution to fishermen’s issues between the two countries.
In Saturday’s meeting also, both the ministers emphasised the agenda of the JWG and asked it to find a permanent solution soon.
From the beginning, the JWG has been dealing with the twin problems of arrest of Indian fishermen and boats by Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s complaint against Indian fishermen for using “bottom trawling” which erodes aquatic resources in the Palk Bay area. Sri Lanka also updated India about the measures it has taken to stop illegal fishing.