By Ridma Dissanayake
Indian fishermen have not yet stopped poaching in Sri Lankan seas and all that Sri Lankan authorities can do is to conduct raids continuously, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said yesterday.
The Sri Lanka Navy yesterday detained another 35 Indian fishermen along with four trawlers in the seas off Kalpitiya. These arrests of 35 Indian fishermen and seizing of four Indian fishing trawlers while poaching in Sri Lankan waters brings the total number of arrested fishermen to 327, and seized fishing trawlers to 60 since the beginning of this year.
“Indian authorities and fishermen are saying that poaching in Sri Lankan waters happens accidentally and that they will do their best to avoid crossing the IMBL of Sri Lanka. But we are not ready to accept that excuse because as we have already revealed they are using this tactic to poach in Sri Lankan waters.
They always fish in Sri Lankan waters after midnight and leave Sri Lankan waters around 4.00 a.m. while destroying our sea bed and cutting the fish nets laid by Sri Lankan fishermen,” the minister said. “In such a situation how can they claim that this is happening accidentally?” Minister Senaratne queried.
According to Fisheries Department statistics at present 142 Indian fishermen and 35 Indian fishing trawlers are in Sri Lankan custody due to poaching in Sri Lankan waters. “Despite discussions between Sri Lanka and India on the poaching issue, Indian fishermen continue to fish in Sri Lankan waters,” sources said.
According to Navy Media Spokesman Commander Kosala Warnanakulasooriya, the Navy arrested these fishermen and seized their fishing vessels while fishing in the seas North of Kalpitiya. Naval patrol craft attached to the North Western Naval Command were deployed to arrest these fishermen and take them ashore for legal proceedings.
The 35 Indian fishermen and four Indian fishing trawlers were handed over to the Kalpitiya Police for legal action, the spokesman said.