The Sri Lankan fisher leaders rejected a demand from their Indian counterparts for a three year phasing out period from Sri Lankan waters.
“There were no agreements during the talks. We have clearly articulated our position at the dialogue that we will not tolerate any illegal poaching in our waters…Not even for three minutes forget about three years,” said V. Thavachchelvam, president of Fishermen Cooperatives Societies Federations at a press conference.
Twelve fishermen association members from Tamil Nadu and 10 of their counterparts from northern Sri Lanka met here at the Ministry of External Affairs after a gap of nearly one and a half years, with all previous rounds of negotiations related proving futile. However, this was the first meeting in which high-level government officials from both sides were also present.
The Sri Lankan fishermen want their Indian counterparts to stop engaging in bottom-trawling, a fishing practice known to harm the marine ecosystem.
Indian fishermen on Thursday demanded they be allowed to do fishing for 85 days per year for the next three years following which it will withdraw the fishermen completely, A. Mariyarasa, President of Rural Fishermen Society Federation said.
“But we strongly put forth our position that we will not release any single vessel arrested by us without following due procedures, said N. V. Subramaniyam, former president of Jaffna Fishermen Societies, who led the 10-member Sri Lankan delegation. Since 2014, Sri Lanka has refused to release over 100 seized trawlers, deterring Indian fishermen from venturing deep.
The Sri Lankan fisher leaders demanded “compensation for the losses incurred” due to alleged fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen in their waters before “moving forward with further dialogue.” The Sri Lankan fishermen alleged that Tamil Nadu fishermen “illegally hatch fisheries stock” causing huge losses to them.
Foreign Ministers of India and Sri Lanka, along with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare – also in-charge of fisheries – will now meet here on Saturday for the first time to possibly develop a joint strategy to tackle the fisheries conflict. “But we will not change our position,” Mr. Thavachchelvam said.
The fisheries issue was also raised by President Maithripala Sirisena in Goa recently, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Colombo Gazette)