The Navy arrested 26 Indian fishermen who were poaching in Sri Lankan waters off Karinagar, a navy spokesman said.
The Navy said that the Indians were on 5 trawlers when they were detected and arrested for entering Sri Lankans waters illegally.
Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said that the Indian fishermen were to be brought to Kayts today to be handed over to the fisheries department authorities.
Fishermen from both countries often stray into each other’s territory as both countries are divided by a small strip of sea.
Indian fishermen say India’s gifting of the Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka in the ’70s has reduced fishing space available for Indian fishermen.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been demanding retrieval of the island, has mooted the idea of entering into a long-term lease agreement with the Sri Lankan government so that Indian fishermen could legally use Sri Lankan waters for fishing.
Last month Sri Lanka released a group of Indian fishermen who were arrested for poaching in Sri Lankan waters.
The release came a day after India summoned Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in Delhi and lodged a strong protest over the arrests. They had asked Sri Lanka that the fishermen be released at the earliest.
Separately, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony had said last month that the country’s government had urged Sri Lanka to direct its navy to act with restraint and not to fire on Indian fishermen sailing along the International Maritime Boundary Line.
“The government continues to remain engaged with the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that fishermen on both sides can continue to pursue their livelihood in a safe, secure and sustainable manner,” he told the Indian parliament.
His comments came after Indian fishermen accused the Sri Lankan navy of attacking them when they stray into Sri Lankan waters. The Navy denied the allegations. (Colombo Gazette)