Tamil Nadu bottom trawlers to fish in Lankan waters?

Fisherman - Indian protestSri Lanka is ready to allow Tamil Nadu bottom trawlers to fish in Lankan waters on predetermined days as an ad hoc measure to mitigate the problem of poaching by Tamil Nadu bottom trawlers in North Lankan waters, an official source told Express on Monday.

The source said that this will be advantageous to Lanka because, at present, nearly 3,000 TN trawlers invade Lankan waters every other day and systematically deplete and destroy the marine resources of the island and deprive North Lankan Tamil fishermen of their livelihood.

Colombo is ready to allow a certain amount of bottom trawling by TN fishermen because trawling is not yet banned in Lanka. South Lankan Sinhalese fishermen trawl in the North Eastern sea off Mullaitivu with tacit government support.

A bill seeking a total ban on bottom trawling was moved by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, M.A.Sumanthiran, in the Lankan parliament in February this year.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that the bill would be sent to Lanka’s nine  Provincial Councils for their comment. But Sumanthiran said that the consent of the Provincial Councils is not necessary because, under the 13 th. Amendment of the Lankan constitution, fisheries is a Central Subject and Colombo can decide.

The Tamil MP is of the view that Lanka cannot stop Tamil Nadu and Puducherry fishermen from indulging in bottom trawling in the North Lankan seas when the practice is not banned in the island nation itself.

According to Gehan Gunatilleke of the Colombo-based Verite Research, there is opposition in Lanka itself to the imposition of a ban on bottom trawling. This is because Lankan fishermen (mainly from South Lanka) want to indulge in bottom trawling in the Northern seas once the Indian fishermen are driven away, Gunatilleke says.

According to Gunatilleke and Sumanthiran, Lanka’s larger and long term interest will be served only by imposing a total ban on bottom trawling, irrespective of the nationality of the trawler.

Talks Postponed

Meanwhile ,the proposed talks between the fishermen’s associations of Lanka and Tamil Nadu got postponed by two months at least because the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department said that it was preoccupied with other matters.

The fishermen’s association of Rameswaram, which had met the Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on June 30, was hoping to have talks with its Lankan counterparts in Chennai on July 8. But this was not to be.

Release of Boats

While the Tamil Nadu government wants Lanka to release the 67 fishermen and 98 boats ahead of the talks, the Lankan government is not for the release of the boats. Colombo is not ready to accept the TN Chief Minister’s demand that the damaged boats be repaired by Lanka before they are handed over. Many of the 98 boats have been damaged due to non-maintenance.

The Lankan Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Amaraweera told Daily Financial Times on Monday, that there is no question of allowing TN fishermen to fish in Lankan waters. He also ruled out talks with TN fishermen and the TN government and said that talks would be held only with New Delhi. He hoped to find a solution by January 2017.

Deep Sea Fishing

Meanwhile, the efforts of the Indian Central government and the TN government to make TN fishermen take to deep sea fishing and cease to fish in the Palk Strait, have been halted temporarily for want of enthusiasm among the fishermen.

Express learns that only 50 of the 79 fishermen who were offered deep sea fishing boats had availed of the offer. (New Indian Express)

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