Indian fishermen want talks with Lankans

Indian fishermen have urged the governments to arrange for talks with their Sri Lankan counterparts to arrive at a solution over the fishing issue, the Times of India reported.

The report however says Sri Lankan fishermen feel that their Indian counterparts should stop harmful fishing practices like bottom trawling and pair trawling, to arrive at an amicable solution.

“The boats are anchored for the ban period and our workers left to fishing areas in western coast. We may need Rs 1 to 2 lakh for repair works but we are troubled if the expenditure will yield any returns if the issue is not solved,” said B Jesuraja, district secretary of Tamil Nadu Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association from Rameswaram.

The fishermen of both countries had earlier held three rounds of talks with the government’s help where they came out with some resolutions. But they are yet to be implemented due to lack of government support, the fishermen said. “We agreed upon some resolutions to solve the dispute but they never materialised,” commented U Arulanandam of Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan fishermen said that they are also eager for the talks to set right the dispute. “We are all fishermen. We are eager to sit for talks to arrive at a solution,” stated Justin Soysa, president of Federation of Mannar District Fishermen Associations. But the Sri Lankan fishermen rued that the Indian trawlers are severely damaging their sea wealth by harmful fishing practices. “The trawlers come as close as 100 to 200m near our fishing villages and destroy our livelihood. Every time they destroy lakhs of rupees worth fishing gear, when they, fish in our waters. They should be sensitive to our livelihood too,” Soysa said.

Sri Lankan officials stressed that the talks will succeed only if the Indian fishermen give up banned fishing practices. “Our fishermen are struggling for livelihood and suffering with the damages caused by the Indian trawlers,” rued B S Miranda, assistant director of fisheries, Mannar district, Sri Lanka. “They are destroying the marine wealth of our fishermen and the talks to solve the dispute will only succeed if the Indian fishermen are ready to forego the bottom and pair trawling methods,” he stressed.

Rameswaram fishermen also expressed that they are ready to give up bottom and pair trawling if alternate fishing methods are promoted by the government. “We are ready to shift from the existing practices. Let the government help us to go deep sea fishing or move our operations to other fishing harbours. But we need complete back up for deep sea fishing because we can’t afford even the 50% subsidy, the government is ready to provide”, S Emerit, a fishermen leader said.