by Maheesha Mudugamuwa
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday vowed to continue arresting Indian fishermen entering Sri Lankan waters illegally to plunder fish resources in the seas off the country’s north.
The Minister made this statement during the launching of Wewak Samaga Gamak fisheries villages development programme at Kudawella in Hambantota, a week after an alleged shooting incident left one Indian poacher dead and several others injured in the vicinity of Kachchativu islet.
Tamil Nadu fishermen alleged that they had been shot by the Sri Lanka Navy, but Minister Amaraweera denied the allegation.
He said an investigation was underway into the incident and the report was due shortly.
Over 5,000 Indian fishing trawlers entered Sri Lankan waters three days per week and they destroyed the marine resources of Sri Lanka’s sea bed through the illegal practice of bottom trawling. The Indian officials had been informed of the matter during last two rounds of meetings and they h also agreed that Indian fishermen were causing great harm to the marine resources.
More details would be presented at next discussion which would be held in April in Sri Lanka, the Minister said.
“Even though the fishing issue has persisted for the past three decades, successive governments have failed to solve it. But since I was appointed as the Fisheries Minister I have ordered the arrest of Indians engaged in illegal fishing in our waters.
“Before 2015, the arrests occurred from time to time but all fishermen and their boats were released. That encouraged them to re-enter our waters.
“Therefore as a solution the Ministry has decided to confiscate the boats and fishing gear of Indian fishermen.”
So far, Sri Lanka had confiscated 128 Indian fishing craft and they would not be released in the future, the minister said.
However, there were reports last week that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had ordered that some Indian trawlers be released for want of anchorage space.