Ban on bottom trawling

fishing-boatSri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has called for a ban on bottom trawling, a destructive fishing practice that harms marine ecosystems.

Mr. Samaraweera made the appeal at the recent ‘Our Ocean 2016 conference’ in Washington DC, ahead of high-level talks between India and Sri Lanka on the Palk Bay conflict.

Sri Lankan Tamil fisher-folk have for long expressed concern over bottom-trawling by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. The Indian fishermen are reluctant to give up trawling which, they argue, employs hundreds of people.

Illegal fishing

Mr. Samaraweera said Sri Lanka was committed to combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Sri Lanka paid a heavy price for it, when the European Union imposed a 15-month ban on seafood imports from the island. While the ban was lifted in April this year, after Sri Lanka adopted new fisheries policies, activists in Sri Lanka point to “IUU fishing by Indian fishermen” in the Palk Bay.

Last year, Tamil lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran moved a bill in Sri Lankan Parliament to ban mechanised bottom trawling. Indian fishermen, however, still cross the maritime boundary and fish using trawlers. In 2016 so far, the Sri Lankan Navy has arrested at least 150 Indian fishermen on charges of illegal fishing.

The Palk Bay issue has proved a challenge to India-Sri Lanka relations, with talks between fishermen of both sides ending in a deadlock. The two countries are now working on dates for the Ministerial level talks, according to diplomatic sources in New Delhi. The neighbours are also trying to resume talks between fishermen from both sides, officials said. (The Hindu)

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