Sri Lanka calls for joint patrols to resolve fishing issues

Representative image.

Colombo: Sri Lanka has called for joint patrols to address the issue of illegal fishing in the northern waters of the country while India insisted on the early release of its fishermen arrested for allegedly poaching in the island nation’s territorial waters, as the two countries held a meeting of the joint working group on fisheries.

During a virtual meeting of the Sri Lanka-India Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries held last month for the fourth time, the two sides discussed the issues related to fishermen.

During the meeting, the Sri Lankan delegation underlined the need to address the matter of illegal fishing in its waters by Indian fishermen, which resulted in loss of livelihood and damage to fishing equipment of local fishermen, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Fisheries said in a statement on Thursday.

Sri Lanka mooted joint patrols to end poaching in the northern waters of the island while India insisted on the release of Indian fishermen recently arrested, it said.

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, it said.

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 Sri Lankan side alleged that South Indian fishermen were freely trespassing on Sri Lankan waters during the long drawn out war in the north and eastern provinces where Sri Lankan fishermen’s movement had been restricted due to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) using them for their military purposes.

The Indian delegation called on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the early release of recently arrested fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities, the statement said.

The Sri Lankan side assured to facilitate the release of arrested fishermen early, once the legal procedures are completed.

The relevant authorities have already granted necessary facilities, including consular access to the arrested Indian fishermen, it said. The Indian High Commission here on Thursday said the Indian fishermen, apprehended in Sri Lanka for allegedly poaching in its territorial waters, have been provided consular assistance by the Consulate General of India in Jaffna.

The high commission said it was in touch with the Sri Lankan Government to facilitate the early release of the detained fishermen.

Fishermen from both countries are arrested frequently for inadvertently trespassing into each other’s waters.

During his five-day visit to India in February, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to resolve the long-festering fishermen issue with a humane approach.