Fisheries minister in troubled water

* Illegal fishing


By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday vowed to re-launch bilateral talks with Indian authorities urgently to resolve the long standing fishing dispute between Sri Lanka and India.

Amaraweera told The Island that he had already instructed his officials to explore the possibility of initiating government level talks soon to find solutions to the issue.

The minister’s comments came a week after the Jaffna fishermen leaders urged him to find a solution by taking up the issue with the Indian government through diplomatic channels instead of relying on talks between the fishermen’s representatives of the two countries.

During a meeting with Minister Amaraweera, Jaffna fishermen said they would boycott the next round of talks with their Indian counterparts on the grounds that Indian fishers continued to poach in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters in large numbers.

Minister Amaraweera stressed that there was no alternative to negotiations at the government level since the local fishermen’s associations had decided to boycott talks with their indian counterparts.

Sri Lanka was concerned not only about poaching in its waters but also harmful fishing method used by the Indian poachers, he added.

Meanwhile, Jaffna Fishermen’s Association leader Ponnambalam Naganadan said that the Minister had said he could understand why they were refusing to hold talks with Indian fishermen. He said the Indian side had not honoured its pledges.

The Jaffna fishermen also urged the government to take immediate action against the illegal fishing methods used by some local fishermen in the Northern Province.

Discussions between fisherman’s associations of two countries began during the tenure of then Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne.

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