Indian Fishermen Poaching in Sri Lankan Waters “Aggressively Resist”Arresr and Seizure of Trawler by Lankan Navy; Sailor from Navy Special Boat Squadron Injured in Clash dies in Jaffna Hospital


Meera Srinivasan and R.Rajaram

A sailor from the Sri Lankan Navy was killed in an operation targeting Indian fishermen and their fishing vessel in the early hours of Tuesday, June 25, 2024, according to Sri Lankan authorities.

As many as 10 Indian fishermen, seven from Nagapattinam, one from Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu and two others from Andhra Pradesh were arrested on charges of illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters, off Kankesanthurai in Jaffna peninsula. The bottom trawler they used was also apprehended.

Following this, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin wrote to Union Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar requesting that he convene the Joint Working Group to secure the release of all the fishermen and their fishing boats from Lankan custody. He also insisted on measures to be taken to prevent such arrests in the future.

In an official statement the Sri Lanka Navy said it had conducted a special operation to “chase away Indian poaching trawlers from Sri Lankan waters”. While the patrol unit arrested the fishermen and seized the trawler, a sailor from the Navy Special Boat Squadron sustained critical injuries “due to the aggressive maneuvers of an Indian trawler, resisting its seizure”. The sailor succumbed to the injuries at the Teaching Hospital in Jaffna.

The Sri Lankan Navy said it “frequently encounters aggressive maneuvers by Indian trawlers”, that often result in injuries to naval personnel and damage to Navy’s ships and craft.
The arrested fishermen were identified as Mariyarasa Mariyalan (42) of Akkaraipettai, D. Wamanasamy (26) of Vanavanmahadevi, R. Muthu Chetti (62) of Akkaraipettai, K. Subramanian (61) of Akkaraipettai, K. Govindasamy (50) of Keechankuppam, M. Rajesh (40) of Akkaraipettai, S. Kalaimurugan (21) of Vanavanmahadevi, S. Manibalan (55) of Cuddalore, Gangala Korumaiya (36) of Visakhapattinam in Andhra Pradesh and Ayoji Venkat (39) of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.

They were taken to the Kankesanthurai Naval base, sources in Tamil Nadu said.

Coastal Security Group sources said the 10 fishermen had, on June 21, set sail on a mechanised boat from the Akkaraipettai fishing harbour in Nagapattinam district. On board the mechanised boat bearing the registration number IND TN 12 MM 5138, they were fishing about 40 nautical miles east of Kodiyakarai when they were intercepted and arrested at around 1.30 a.m. on Tuesday by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of trespassing into the island nation’s waters, the sources said.

This is the third incident of the arrest of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy in this month. A few days ago, 22 fishermen of Rameswaram were arrested which was preceded by the arrest of four fishermen of Pudukottai district.

Mr. Stalin had also written to Mr. Jaishankar on Monday, June 24 asking him to get 37 T.N. fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy, released.

“In 2024, 203 fishermen and 27 boats have been apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy. The frequent arrests of fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan authorities have created an insecure atmosphere among the fishermen community,” Mr. Stalin said in his letter. He sought the release of all 47 fishermen and 166 fishing boats currently in the custody of Sri Lankan authorities.

The Sri Lankan Navy’s account of the mid-sea confrontation is a reflection of an enduring fisheries conflict in the Palk Strait that severely impacts daily waged fisherfolk in northern Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, without any durable solution at sight.

The Sri Lankan Navy’s figures are slightly higher than the T.N. ones — this year, the Navy said it has seized 28 Indian trawlers and arrested 214 Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. Besides, northern Sri Lankan fishermen have been campaigning relentlessly against the use of the bottom-trawling fishing method by their Indian counterparts, citing its destructive impact on marine resources that both communities rely on.

In 2022, leaders of the northern fishing community in Sri Lanka wrote to Mr Stalin to come up with a “progressive” solution to the fisheries conflict that “threatens the historically strong relationship” shared by the two Tamil communities.

Earlier this year, they underscored the need to resume talks between leaders of fishermen’s associations from both sides to build on a 2016 understanding reached by the governments of India and Sri Lanka to address the problem, including by “expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest”. However, there has been no progress since.

Courtesy:The Hindu