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Sunday, 22 August 2010

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Move to preserve marine wealth and avoid conflicts:

Call for 'No Fishing Zone' in Palk Straits

Fishermen in the North have called for a “No Fishing Zone” in the Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar to help preserve marine wealth and avoid conflicts between Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen.

The fishermen from several fisheries associations in the North, made this proposal during a series of meetings now under way with fishermen’s societies in Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan fishermen have said that the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) should be a peaceful area and there should not be any bloodshed among fishermen.

Incidents of fishermen from both countries crossing the IMBL are common. This is the first time that fishermen from both sides are having formal discussions after the 2004 tsunami which devastated the fisheries industries in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. The leader of the group, K. Sooryakumar from Jaffna told reporters that the fishermen from both countries had been in constant touch till 2004 and sorted out their issues but the contact was totally lost after the tsunami.

“We want to revive the mutual link and friendship to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar,” he said.

The 23-member team from Sri Lanka discussed with their Indian counterparts the damage caused to marine wealth due to the use of trawlers and the need to evolve a strategy to protect the livelihood rights of fishermen of both countries.

“The use of certain fishing gear and trawlers by Indian fishermen is detrimental to Sri Lankan fishermen as it has depleted the fish resources in the Palk Bay area,” Sooryakumar said.

Sooryakumar said, “The depletion of fish resources was affecting the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen in the Northern province.”

He said, “Sri Lanka has a demarcated maritime boundary. Whenever there are violations, it should be dealt with according to the law. It is for the governments of both countries to discuss the issue and settle it.

Some Sri Lankan fishermen also alleged that Indian fishermen snapped their fishing nets in the high seas and wanted an “amicable” solution to the problem.

The Sri Lankan fishermen and officials will visit Rameswaram, Jegadhapattinam, Kottaipattinam, Mallipattinam, Velankanni, Nagore, Pattinacherri, Akkaraipetai, Keerchangkuppam and Chennai during their stay in Tamil Nadu. Vivekanandan, advisor to the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies, (SIFFS), said that the three-day event would be a serious exercise in understanding each other’s problems and would propose a number of measures of co-operation that could contribute to easing the current problems associated with trans-border fishing.

This visit followed a visit to Sri Lanka last week by members of the Tamil Nadu Fishermen's Federation.

The Indian Government recently cautioned its fishermen against crossing the Sri Lankan maritime border, especially the areas designated as “sensitive” by the Sri Lankan Government.

Informing the Rajya Sabha that the number of apprehensions and firing at fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka has come down significantly since the October 2008 bilateral understanding, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said caution from the Indian side was also important.

“Incidents have taken place in Sri Lankan waters where our fishermen stray across the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). It is important that we sensitise our fishermen to respect the IMBL and not stray into Sri Lankan waters for their own safety and security, especially in areas designated as sensitive by the Government of Sri Lanka,” he said.

He said India has conveyed a similar request to Sri Lanka to sensitise their fishermen who cross the IMBL and enter the Indian waters.

He said the Sri Lankan Government has denied that its Navy has had any responsibility in incidents of firing at Indian fishermen.

“They have also said that their Navy does not enter Indian territorial waters,” he said.

According to the Understanding on Fishing Arrangements of 2008, both sides agreed to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bonafide fishermen crossing the IMBL.

 

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