COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka will not accept a demand by Indian fishermen to be allowed to fish in the island’s waters and will tighten enforcement against poachers by destroying their nets, an official said.
Fishermen from Tamil Nadu have demanded they be allowed to fish in the island’s coastal waters for up to 83 days a year using bottom trawling methods, a banned technique.
Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Amaraweera said the demand came during talks between fishermen’s associations and government officials of both countries.
The Tamil Nadu fishermen had asked to be allowed to continue trawling in Sri Lankan waters for three years until they found alternative deep-sea methods, he told a news conference.
The dispute has become a diplomatic issue between India and Sri Lanka but Amaraweera said they wanted to sort it out through further talks.
"We don’t want to clash with the Indian government in any way. India is a friendly, neighbour. The central government is not supporting poaching but it is the Tamil Nadu government."
Sri Lanka has been arresting Indian poachers and later releasing both the fishermen and boats.
"Our navy is now detaining 25 boats and 37 fishermen," Amaraweera told a news conference.
"We’re going to amend the fisheries act to give us more powers to act against poachers. Till now our practice has been to arrest fishermen and boats and release them.
"In future, we’ve decided not to release the net of seized Indian boats. This should act as a deterrent. Otherwise poaching will continue."