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Detained Indian fishermen handed over to fisheries dept: Sri Lanka navy

The locations the arrests were made (Source- Sri Lanka Navy)

ECONOMYNEXT – Fifty-four Indian nationals that were taken into custody by the Sri Lanka navy on Wednesday (24) for illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters have been handed over to Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the navy said.

Navy Media Spokesman Captain Indika De Silva told EconomyNext said that, upon such arrests, foreign fishermen are handed over to Sri Lanka’s fisheries authorities who set legal procedures in motion in order to prosecute them. However, if the Sri Lankan government decides not to prosecute them due to diplomatic level discussions held between the two governments concerned, those fishermen are then released to their respective national authorities.

Sri Lanka’s navy apprehended the 54 Indian nationals Wednesday night and seized five fishing vessels along with them for allegedly engaging in illegal fishing in Sri Lanka’s territorial  waters. The navy said in a statement yesterday that the arrests were made in routine patrols by the navy with a view to curbing illegal fishing in the seas off northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

The patrols are being conducted having considered the impact of foreign fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters on the local fishing community and the sustainability of fishery resources of Sri Lanka, the navy added.

According to the statement, naval units attached to Northern Naval Command nabbed a large Indian fishing vessel with 14 personnel on board about three nautical miles off the coast of Kovilan, Jaffna.  The seized vessel has a 75ft long and 22ft wide steel hull an approximately 280 horsepower engine and is capable of harvesting a huge fish stock with its motorised trawls, the navy said.

Some 1,030 kilos of illegally caught fish and fishing gear used for the illegal activities were also seized by the navy.

Vessels were also seized Pesali, Mannar and Iranativu. Meanwhile the Eastern Naval Command seized two boats with 20 personnel and fishing accessories some 7.5 and 8.5 nautical miles off Mullaitivu. The navy said the 02 vessels had trespassed into Sri Lankan waters about 62 nautical miles, crossing the International Boundary Line (IMBL)

Sri Lanka maintains that illegal fishing by Indian nationals in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters has greatly impacted the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen in the island’s north. The use of illegal fishing techniques such as bottom trawling to catch even very small fish has also seriously threatened the marine ecosystem in the area, the navy said.

Since December last year, 99 Indian fishermen have been apprehended by the Sri Lanka navy along with 11 boats.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said on Wednesday (24) called for a humanitarian approach to resolving the crisis.

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“Providing immediate consular access and emergency supplies to apprehended fishermen are of prime importance. We are working with the Government of Sri Lanka for expeditiously securing consular access for these fishermen,” the Daily Mirror quoted a high commission spokesman as saying. The spokesman noted that bilateral mechanisms are already in place to comprehensively address all matters related to fisheries.

“It may be recalled that the fourth meeting of the Secretary-level joint working group was held on December 30 through virtual mode. Follow-up measures on the basis of discussions which took place during the meeting need to be taken forward quickly,” the website quoted the spokesman as saying.

At the working group meeting in question, Sri Lanka had called for joint patrols to end continued poaching in the northern waters of the island while India requested the release of arrested fishermen.

“The Sri Lanka delegation underlined the need to address the matter of illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen, which resulted in loss of livelihood and damage to fishing equipment of local fishermen,” Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Fisheries said on December 31 last year.

“The Indian side elaborated details in regard to the legal action taken against such practices and the initiatives to encourage South Indian fishermen to engage in deep sea fishing and alternative livelihood. The Sri Lankan delegation conveyed the need to further enhance the joint patrolling and operationalisation of the hotline between the Law Enforcement authorities of the two countries to ensure effective results,” the ministry said. (Colombo/Mar26/2021)

Related: Sri Lanka calls for joint patrols to tackle poaching fishermen from India

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