By Shamindra Ferdinando
The navy on Saturday (28) arrested 22 Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lanka’s northern waters.
Navy headquarters spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya told The Island that the arrests were made off the Delft island. The navy also took six trawlers into custody.
The official alleged that as most of the trawlers had been equipped with directional finding equipment, they couldn’t have strayed. They had entered Sri Lankan waters purposely and were engaged in illegal fishing, the official said.
The fishermen and trawlers were taken to the KKS harbour and handed over to fisheries authorities.
"We are trying to discourage them from crossing the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary, especially in the wake of an upsurge in poaching," a senior security official told The Island.
During the second week of December the navy took 23 trawlers into its custody along with 141 fishermen in northern and eastern waters. Out of the total, the SLN netted 15 trawlers and 111 fishermen north-east of Trincomalee. They were detected close to the land between Mullaitivu and Kokilai.
"We took the rest five nautical miles east of Analativu Island in the night. They were brought to Kankesanturai harbour and handed over to the fisheries authorities," the official said.
Authoritative sources told The Island that legal action would be taken against those arrested while poaching in Lankan waters. Sources said that as the Indian fishing fleet had deprived the northern fishermen of their livelihood a sustained naval operation was needed to curb poaching.
Sources emphasized that India had the wherewithal to easily prevent them from crossing the maritime boundary. They alleged that Indian security authorities as well as fisheries officials were turning a blind eye to what was happening as the trawlers belonged to influential persons. The operation would continue regardless of ongoing protests in Tamil Nadu.