By Jaideep Shenoy
MANGALORE: Prompt action taken by Indian Coast Guard based on information provided by the alert Indian fishermen has resulted in arrest of 16 Sri Lankan fishermen who were caught fishing for sea cucumber in India's exclusive economic zone. As per Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981 a s well as under Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 as sea cucumber is a prohibited specie under Schedule I of the said Act.
ICGS Rajdoot with assistance from fishing boat St Antony apprehended the Sri Lankan fishermen with bonafide identity cards issued by their government on board Colombo Marine, a high seas tuna long liner at Chereapani reef, northern most point of Lakshadweep Islands, 188 nautical miles from this coastal city on April 7. Coast Guard personnel recovered two tonnes of sea cucumber whose value in international market is US$1.20-lakh.
Rajmani Sharma, DIG, Indian Coast Guard, and commander, Coast Guard Karnataka said this is the first instance where Coast Guard has apprehended Sri Lankan fishermen along the West coast, fishing illegally in India's EEZ. It is also first instance where foreign fishermen apprehended under the above Act have been brought to New Mangalore Port that has been notified on December 10, 2013 as a port to handle cases under the above Act.
The Coast Guard authorities handed over the Sri Lankan fishermen and the vessel to the state police authorities. City police chief R Hithendra said action will be taken based on complaint from Coast Guard authorities. Rajmani Sharma said local fisheries, forest, immigration and customs department too will be involved in the case and the onus of auctioning the sea cucumbers seized by the Coast Guard is the responsibility of fisheries department.