Poaching by Indian fishing vessels in Sri Lanka's northern waters is now much reduced, and we have warned fishermen in the island not to go into other country's territories, fisheries minister Rajitha Senaratne said.
"In the north fishermen are now much happier," Senaratne told reporters in Colombo. "They had two problems. They earlier had to get a pass from the Navy for which they had to queue up for two or three hours. The new Navy commander cancelled it following talks with us.
"The second problem was poaching by Indian fishermen. They used to come to about four nautical miles from the coast and take all the fish. Not only that they destroy the seabed though bottom trawling."
Bottom trawling was banned in Sri Lanka and fishermen used to complain how it was banned for them and Indians were doing it, he said.
Senaratne said up to a 1000 Indian vessels used to slip into Sri Lankan waters each day on some occasions compared to about 50 Sri Lankan vessels.
But now they were being arrested by the Navy and being produced in court.
"Now poaching is reduced," Senaratne said. "So India is also now taking tough action against our fishermen going to their waters. That is to be expected,"
"I have now told our fishing societies, whoever does the wrong thing we will not help anymore. So I told from January 2013 we will not help anyone who has been going illegally to fish in other people's territory."
Senaratne said India and Sri Lanka used to exchange fishermen without prosecuting them. Sri Lanka's fisheries ministry used to give legal assistance and air tickets when fishermen were caught in other countries.
But he said recently when some fishermen were caught in Bangladesh, under the new policy, air tickets were refused.
"Still some people go," Senratne said. "They take risks thinking that we will help with legal help and tickets." More....