The Sri Lanka Navy has arrested 55 fishermen and seized eight boats belonging to them. M.K. Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has written to the Ministry of External Affairs following the incident, urging them to initiate efforts for their release. The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 55 Tamil Nadu fishermen and seized eight boats belonging to them.
More than 50 fishermen went out to sea on December 18. The Sri Lanka Navy stopped them while they were fishing near the Katchatheevu island. According to the Fisheries department, the Navy then arrested the fishermen and seized their boats on Sunday. Kangesanthurai was the only camp where all the arrested persons were housed.
In the meantime, the fishermen’s union has called for an indefinite strike on Monday to raise awareness about the issue.
PTI reports that CM Stalin also spoke with External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar over the phone, requesting him to try his best to assist with the release of the 55 fishermen and their boats.
The CM has reportedly mentioned in his letter the continued harassment of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy and has demanded the release of all 73 boats that have been impounded by Lankan authorities.
There have been nearly 19 incidents of Tamil Nadu fishermen being apprehended and attacked in 2021 alone, according to CM Stalin. Despite the fact that the fishermen were released in all the aforementioned incidents, their boats, a crucial source of their livelihoods, were never retrieved. Additionally, the chief minister reported that five fishermen had died and two attacks occurred during the same period. Stalin referred to the Sri Lankan Navy’s move to hinder fishermen from doing their traditional work as an “intimidatory tactic”, and called on the Centre to take action to prevent such behaviour.
According to a report by the Times of India, the Sri Lankan Navy arrested 20 Indian fishermen and detained two boats in March 2021, in a similar incident. Several fishermen from Rameswaram and Thangachimadam were picked up by the Lankan navy near Katchatheevu, according to a senior Fisheries department official. Representatives of Indian fishermen’s associations have expressed concern over repeated arrests of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, and urged the central and state governments to ensure their release.
Indian boats often trespass into international waters. Sri Lankan fishermen launched a flotilla of boats in October 2021 to urge their government to do more to protect the island nation’s prawn-rich northern waters from poaching by Indian fishermen. Sri Lankan boats have been seen carrying opposition legislators and flying black flags while sailing to Point Pedro, Sri Lanka’s northernmost tip.
The bottom trawling practice that was banned in Sri Lankan waters in 2017 involves pulling heavy nets across the seafloor to catch large quantities of fish, causing severe damage to the marine ecosystem. TNA is protesting that Sri Lankan authorities have failed to stop the poaching by Indian fishermen and protect impoverished fishing communities. In an Al Jazeera report from Colombo, the fishing community has been complaining for years. She said that it all boils down to livelihood, as Sri Lankan fishermen complain of poaching by Indian boats who enter Sri Lankan waters and take valuable fish stocks with them. Fernando said that protesters want the government to implement the laws passed in 2017 more strongly and ensure that all offenders are held accountable.
Sri Lanka and India are separated by the narrow Palk Strait, which is a rich fishing ground for jumbo prawns. This has resulted in tensions between the South Asian neighbours. During the island’s decades-long Tamil separatist war that ended in May 2009, Sri Lankan fishermen were not permitted to venture into the sea, allowing Indians free access to the area. There have been rising tensions over poaching since the end of the war. In recent years, Sri Lanka has regularly detained a large number of Indian fishermen and seized their boats, however, as per locals, the poaching has not abated.