Fishermen warned against drug trafficking | Sunday Observer

Fishermen warned against drug trafficking

The Navy has warned Northern and Eastern fishermen against drug trafficking and using vessels to smuggle narcotics into the country taking advantage of their vulnerability arising due to Covid-19 confinement.

Navy spokesman Lt. Commander Isuru Suriyabandara told the Sunday Observer yesterday that although the use of fishing vessels to smuggle drugs had been a common feature, it has increased during the past six months in the number of arrests of fishing vessels with narcotics, such as Kerala cannabis, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

The Navy confiscated over three tonnes of Kerala cannabis and arrested 141 suspects in 91 naval operations this year, he said. Drug smuggling by sea has increased with drug traffickers, relying heavily on maritime routes to smuggle drugs, due to restrictions imposed on air travel as a result of Covid-19, he said.

“Sri Lankan fishermen have become the primary target of illicit drug traffickers seeking to employ fishermen and their boats to transport drugs taking advantage of the fishery sector,” he said.

Suriyabandara said that the Navy has launched a program to educate skippers and crews of fishing vessels in the Northern and the Eastern provinces on the dangers of becoming drug traffickers’ accomplices.

“We are educating them on the social impact and the legal consequences of smuggling narcotics so that they do not fall prey to drug dealers. The Navy launched this program on the theme of Drug Prevention Week, “Drug Free Nation – Prosperous Country.”

According to a paper, released by Ecotrust Canada and founder of Spyglass, an online tool that maps out vessels involved in maritime crimes, “By using small boats, drug traffickers may spread the “risk” across several vessels, so if one gets intercepted, the traffickers won’t lose that much money.”

The Navy has intensified its maritime border patrolling operations in the Northern and the Eastern seas to check drug trafficking, Suriyabandara said.

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