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Fisheries Dept. gets tough on Lankans, ignores Indians

Detection of banned methods draws Rs. 500,000 reward

By Leon Berenger
The Department of Fisheries has upped the rewards for those helping to detect illegal methods of fishing, but says it is helpless to intercept Indian trawlers continuing to poach unhindered in the country’s northern and north western territorial waters.
Hundreds of Indian fishermen cross into Sri Lankan waters by nightfall, haul their nets over the seabed and leave before dawn with catches of fish, prawns and sea cucumber with the Sri Lanka Navy watching helplessly and asked to treat the poachers humanely under a tacit agreement reached between the Sri Lankan Government and the Indian Government
A government minister from the North has announced that he is to muster 5000 trawlers in the Palk Strait, the waters that divide India and Sri Lanka, to protest poaching by Indian fishermen precipitating a fresh crisis between India and Sri Lanka. The protest, organised by Minister Douglas Devananda, is timed for the celebration of the feast of St. Anthony in Kachchativu. Already fishermen are being registered for the protest with the help of fisheries organisations in the Jaffna Peninsula.
In contrast, the Sri Lankan Government is preparing to clamp down on Sri Lankan fishermen engaged in illegal fishing practices that have been on the upsurge partly due to them being chased away by the Indian fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds.
Fisheries Director Nimal Hettiarachchi said that rewards for detecting illegal methods of fishing, which stood at Rs. 5,000 had now been increased to a whopping Rs. 500,000.
His comments came barely days after some 50 dolphins were killed off the Kalpitiya coast after they were trapped in banned nets used by local fishermen.
Some 15 fishermen have already been arrested in this connection and a hunt is on for more suspects, according to police.
Mr. Hettiarachchi said illegal activities in the local fishing industry had seen a steep increase and a crackdown was necessary.
Illegal activities range from the use of explosives to outlawed nets that destroy future harvests and damage the environment, Mr. Hettiarachchi said.
However he said that his men would stop short of intercepting the thousands of Indian poachers who entered the country’s territorial waters on a nightly basis.
“This is a bilateral issue between the two countries and moreover it is a matter for the Navy to handle,” Mr. Hettiarachchi said.
Navy spokesperson Kosala Warnakulasuriya said the Navy would step up surveillance in the coastal areas to nab errant fishermen using illegal methods in the trade, but made no comment about the large scale poaching by Indian fishermen.
Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130203/news/fisheries-dept-gets-tough-on-lankans-ignores-indians-31645.html