Hon Min. Dr. Rajitha Senarathna
Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development
Strike of Mannar District fishermen regarding the following issues on the coming
World Fishermen Day of 21st November 2013
All the fishermen societies and fishermen from Mannardistrict have decided to carry out a fishing strike, byignoring the coming World Fishermen Day, in order to express to the world their distress and unhappiness because their issues haven’t been taken seriously by the relevant authorities over a long period of time. There are about forty thousand fishermen from nine thousand families that rely on fishing for their livelihood. These issues should not be difficult to resolve as thesefishermen feed the world by risking their lives. We request everyone to get together to resolve their issues and satisfy their demands.
Key issues giving rise to the strike
The fishermen want the government to:
•Prevent encroachment by Indian trawlers
•Act immediately to gain the release of the Sri Lankan fishermen captured and imprisoned by the Indian Government
•Act to reduce the encroachment of southern fishermen into Mannar fishing areas
•Enforce the ban on cylinder fishing in the Mannarfishing areas
•Listen and respond to our appeals for disaster relief
•Continue the fuel subsistence stamp cards
Prevent encroachment by Indian trawlers
•Our sea resources are being destroyed by thesetrawlers’ fishing methods
•Fishermen who returned after the war aren’t able to fish freely
•The significant corals and sea reefs are also being destroyed
•No resources are going to be left behind for the future generations
•Small scale fishermen have totally lost their fishing occupation
•Expensive fishing nets and fishing equipment are also destroyed by these trawlers and no one has received any compensation for this destruction and loss
•Sea plants, which are the main food resource for the fish, and also provide protection for the fish, are also being demolished by these trawlers
•Many millions of rupee worth of sea resources are taken away from our sea areas by these trawlers
•Because of the presence of these Indian trawlers,local fishing can effectively only be done for “three days a week”
Act immediately to gain the release of the Sri Lankan fishermen
•Our government has to take immediate action togain the release of our Sri Lankan fishermen fromMannar who were captured by the Indian government and accused of trespassing over the national border.
Act to reduce the encroachment of southern fishermen into Mannar fishing areas
•Because they come in large numbers the southern fishermen set up camp on Mannar Island and process and sell fish, taking away the livelihood of the local fishermen and creating conflict with local fishermen
•The southern fishermen never obey the rules of the local fishermen societies
•They never ask for permission to carry out fishing activities in the fishing port
•They form a separate society and they do whatever they want to
•When they go, they never clean up after themselves, they just leave their temporary huts and rubbish behind
•The local fishermen have to sit out the off season waiting for the fishing season to start; when the fishing season starts again, all the southern fishermen arrive and the locals have trouble catching enough fish to survive.
•The local fishermen, trying to recover from the effects of the three decades of war, rely on the income from fishing as their only source of income. This encroachment of southern fishermen is killing their livelihood and their chance of full recover.
•In the six months of off season the local fishermenhave to pawn their possessions and take out loans, and rely on the fishing season to regain their possessions and pay off loans. Unfortunately, the arrival of the southern fishermen makes this very difficult.
•Every year the number of southern fishermen is gradually increasing, causing ever more hardship for the local fishing community, sometimes even starvation.
Enforce the ban on cylinder fishing in the Mannarfishing areas
•Through the pass system, the cylinder fishermen, designed for deep sea diving, are able to carry out their diving activities and collect the sea cucumber, sea shells, etc in Mannar waters.
•Most of the fishermen in Mannar are skin divers. This means that local skin divers who dive without equipment are seriously outnumbered and have lost their livelihood.
•The letter of Assistant Commissioner of Fisheries dated 19 March 2013 stopped the use of cylinder fishing in Mannar shallow waters for a while, but now they are coming back.
Listen and respond to our appeals for disaster relief
•For many years our fishermen have been facing serious natural disasters and many have lost their fishing gear including boats, some their lives. In some seasons they have faced continuous weather warnings. They have been asked to make claims and have gone through the process of making claims, but have never received any of the promised compensation.
Continue the fuel subsidy stamp cards
•Since 16 February 2012 Mannar fishermen have been getting the fuel subsidy. They have been told by authorities that the fuel subsidy stop in December 2013. Instead of the fuel subsidy they have been told that they will receive a one-off gift of a set of fishing nets as compensation. This change is not going to be adequate to assist their current economic difficulties.
•The Mannar fishermen ask that the fuel subsidy be continued or else that fuel prices be reduced.
Because all of these issues have been continuing for a long time, many Mannar fishermen are in severe debt, some have left fishing, some have committed suicide, and a significant number of them have sought asylum in foreign countries.
So, as a representative of the Mannar District fishermen community, I ask you to please consider all of our issues, and we request you to take immediate action to resolve this unhappy situation.
Federation of Mannar District Fishermen Societies
1)Hon. Chief Minister C.V.Vikneswaran, Northern Province
2)Hon. Minister P. Deniswaran - Fisheries, Transport and rural development of Northern Province
3)Asst. director for fisheries – Fisheries department,Mannar
4)Asst. commissioner for cooperative development – Cooperative department, Mannar
5)Organizer, National Fisheries Cooperative council
6)All media reporters – Mannar District