‘Indian poachers deprive northern fishermen of livelihood’June 26, 2011, 9:37 pm
By Franklin R Satyapalan and Harishchandra Gunaratne
Northern fishermen have called upon the government to prevent Indian fishermen depriving them of their livelihood by poaching in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.
President of the Fishermen’s Association of Jaffna, S. Thavaratnam told The Island that talks between high ranking officials of the governments of India and Sri Lanka had not deterred the Indian fishermen from venturing into Sri Lankan waters and harvesting fish at will.
"The Indian fishermen are helped by Indian Navy and Coast Guard to enter the Sri Lankan waters and return home with their exploits with impunity," Thavaratnam alleged.
He said around 600 Indian boats had found their way into the Sri Lankan water with the assistance of an Indian Navy vessel on Saturday and harvested a lot of fish before going away.
The Indian fishermen who called off a three-day old strike against the detention of 23 fellow fishermen by Sri Lankan Naval on June 20 had attempted to cross the IMBL on Saturday, Thavaratnam said. The Sri Lankan Navy had warned the poachers but it had withdrawn on seeing an approaching Indian vessel allowing the Indian fishermen to carry out their illegal fishing to their heart’s content, Thavaratnam said.
Meanwhile, a news report published by The Hindu confirmed the allegation levelled by Thavaratnam. A report filed from Rameswaram said an Indian Navy ship on a patrol had turned out to be the saviour of a large group of fishermen chased away by Sri Lankan Navy close to International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
However, the Sri Lankan Navy denied this claim.
The Hindu report further said: "As they reached the area close to IMBL, they were chased away by Sri Lankan Navy men who came in their patrol boats, the officials said quoting the fishermen who returned to the shores in the wee hours Sunday. However, the Sri Lankan Navy men retreated on seeing the Indian Navy ship, they said adding the fishermen also told them they were able to fish without any trouble thereafter. "We could fish without any problem till mid night and return to the shore," one of the fishermen told officials. The fishermen had a good catch as they put out to the sea after a gap of four days, officials said."
Thavaratnam welcomed the capture by the Sri Lanka Navy of four Indian trawlers along with 23 fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. He accused the Indian fishermen of causing irreparable damage to fishing resources of Sri Lanka.
Thavaratnam said were organised groups of Indians who poached in Sri Lankan waters.
"Having destroyed their fishing resources through illegal methods, they have now turned to Sri Lanka’s," Thavaratnam said of Indian fishermen.
President of the Mannar District Fishermen’s Cooperative Society N.M. Aalam told The Island that the Indians should understand that they were ruining the livelihood of thousands of Northern fishermen who had suffered immensely for decades owing to the war.
"We will launch a protest demanding that the government confiscate all vessels and equipment belonging to the Indian fishermen who poach in Sri Lankan waters," Aalam said.
Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Dr. Rajitha Senaratna was not available for comment.
Navy Spokesman Commander Kosala Waranakulasuriya denied that the Lankan Navy had retreated on seeing an Indian naval vessel on Saturday. He said he had been out of Colombo and therefore was not aware of the details of the incident. However, he said there was no truth in the claim that the Navy had withdrawn allowing the Indian fishermen to harvest Sri Lanka’s fishing resources illegally. He said the Navy would not allow any intrusions into Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.
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Last Updated May 25 2013 | 03:45 pm