Indian poaching: Sri Lanka’s first formal condemnation

* Minister Rishad behind unprecedented resolution
*35,000 intrusions into Lankan territorial waters in 2015’
*Indian fisher depriving Lankans of livelihoods condemned    
*North loses 30,000MT fish to Indian poachers annually


Vanni MP and Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (centre) is greeted by Mannar fisher folk at Mannar DS Office following the Jan. 20 DDC resolution on poaching.

Exasperated by the unabated poaching by cross border flotillas from India people of Mannar District, which is one of the richest and most diverse fishery spots in the Asian Pacific Region, have decided to take their case all the way to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka. A regional resolution condemning poaching by Indian fishers has now been adopted for the first time in Sri Lanka.

Minister of Industry and Commerce, Vanni MP, and Co-Chairman of Mannar District Development Council (DDC) Rishad Bathiudeen said in Mannar recently:  "Mannar fishermen have been making their representations to me for a long time and I, too, have witnessed poaching myself. Today, I propose to adopt a resolution to stage our written protest to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka"

 The meeting was jointly led by Minister Bathiudeen, Vanni District MP K. K. Masthan, and Mannar District Secretary M. Y .S. Deshapriya. The Chief Minister of Northern Provincial Council C. V. Wigneswaran was absent. Among those present at the meeting were high ranking military and police personnel, public officials and the representatives of the Mannar fishers.

 "Poaching by Indian fishermen has destroyed our fishermen’s livelihood," said Minister Bathiudeen. "It seems that there is no end to this. We are now tired. The Mannar fishermen have been making their representations to me for a long time and I, too, have witnessed this poaching myself. Today, I propose that the Mannar District Development Council (DDC) move a resolution to submit our written protest to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka through our Foreign Ministry. We believe that this cannot and should not go on.  Last year, instances of illegal poaching incidents exceeded 35,000 and we have identified they originate from the Southern coast of India. Sri Lanka has lost more than 30,000 MT of fish last year alone due to poaching."

 President of Mannar District Fishermen’s Cooperative Societies (UMDFCS) N. M. Aalam confirmed what the minister said  "We are happy at last this resolution has been adopted. The Indian fishermen are also resorting to bottom trawling, which destroys our fish resources. We are losing 600 MT fish per week to them in all of the Northern Province. We can see that they start their illegal acitivity as early as 6. 00 pm daily and go on till 1.00 am the following day," Aalam said.

 With a 162-km coastal belt Mannar is the second largest District in the North after Mullaitivu. It is considered one of the richest and diverse fishery resources in the Asian Pacific Region. In Mannar District alone more than 8,500 MT of fish are netted annually. It is famous for white fishes, prawns, tiger prawns, sea crabs, mud crabs and pure white cuttlefish. The potential for high value fisheries such as Béche-de-mer (sea cucumber) has attracted overseas investor interest including Maldivian private sector, to set up in Mannar.

After he moved the resolution at the DDC meeting, Minister Bathiudeen received a strong backing from the District’s fisherman and many others.

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