Sri Lankan Navy arrests 11 Indian fishermen for alleged poaching

COLOMBO, Feb 8: The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 11 Indian fishermen and seized three fishing trawlers for allegedly poaching in the country’s territorial waters, an official statement said on Tuesday.
The arrests were made close to Delft Island in the north on Monday. They were indulging in bottom trawling, the Navy said.
The arrests are part of the Navy’s patrols to cut illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters to minimise impact from poaching on the local fishermen and sustainability of fishery resources in Sri Lanka, the statement said.
The fishermen issue is a contentious one in ties between the two countries.
The issue of fishermen also figured in the talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Sri Lankan counterpart GL Peiris in New Delhi on Monday. Peiris is on a three-day official visit to India.
“Exchanged views on the fishermen issue and agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early. Recognised the importance of greater tourism for economic recovery. Also noted the importance of P2P linkages through greater connectivity,” Jaishankar said.
The arrest of 11 Indian fishermen comes as the local immigration officials are making arrangements to repatriate the 56 Indian fishermen released by a Sri Lankan court in the northern Jaffna peninsula last month.
They were shifted to an immigration detention centre here on Monday after completing their COVID quarantine period, the prison authorities said.
Prison Superintendent and Spokesman Chandana Ekanayake told PTI on Sunday that the Indian fishermen have spent the isolation period in the prison-run COVID-19 quarantine centre in Iyakkachchi in the Northern province since their release on January 25.
On February 1, Twenty-one Indian fishermen were arrested and they have been further remanded till February 21 by the Point Pedro magistrate court.
In the capital Colombo, the local fisher organisation, the All Island Podu Fishermen Union staged a noisy demonstration opposite the fisheries ministry premises.
“We have been agitating for over decades to make the Sri Lanka government stop this Indian fishing invasion. They are helpless,” Ratna Gamage, its national organiser said.
There have been several alleged incidents of Sri Lankan Navy personnel even firing at Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait and seizing their boats.
The Palk Strait, which is a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, is a rich fishing ground for fishermen from both countries. (PTI)