Let us Proudly Commemorate International Year of Small Scale Fisheries & Aquaculture - 2022

Lankan Fishermen Allege Harassment

By Camelia Nathaniel
Sri Lankan fishermen in the North and East continue to encounter harassment by Indian trawlers that enter Sri Lanka’s territorial waters illegally, officials said. However in spite of various discussions being held between the two countries, there has been no reduction in the number of Indian trawlers entering Sri Lankan fishing grounds, which has led to the overexploitation of our resources and destroying our marine resources.
The Convener of the National Fisherman’s Solidarity Movement Herman Kumara told The Sunday Leader that after the end of the war Sri Lankan fishermen returned to the sea, but Indian trawlers had been fishing in Sri Lanka’s waters around three days per week, during the early stages.
“They encroached on our waters during the war as well. However now the situation has worsened and the Indian fishing trawlers enter our territorial waters almost every day of the week except on Friday. These Indian trawlers when they enter our waters cut the nets of our local fishermen, damage our boats and engines and sometime even go to the extent of having confrontations which has resulted in some casualties on both sides.”
Explaining the manner in which the local fishermen’s nets are being damaged he said that the type of fishing gear used by the Indian fishermen cause extensive damage to the local fishing nets. “They use some mechanism that has iron rods and pair trolls that drag along the sea bed.  Hence, when our local fishermen’s floating nets get entangled in these devices they are damaged.  These Indian trawlers are high speed crafts and they gather all the sea cucumber, prawns and fish, leaving hardly any resources for the local fishermen. It’s a sort of running fishing technique that over exploits Sri Lanka’s resources and also causes damage to our marine resources. Due to the speeding trawlers smaller fishing boats sometimes are hit and damaged,” he said.
This fishing technique used by the Indian trawlers not only affects the Sri Lankan fishermen but in Tamil Nadu too. “This is why there is an agreement where the trawlers are permitted to fish only three days per week.  The small scale fishermen have been protesting against this method of fishing for decades, but to no avail. That is why the Indian fishermen have this type of agreement between them,” he said. Herman Kumara added that due to this method of fishing it is not just the fish stocks that are affected but even the coral and other marine resources are also damaged.
He said that the marine resources in the Indian Territory have been over exploited and this is what is bringing the Indian fishermen into Sri Lankan territorial waters which have an abundance of fish. “According to research conducted it has been revealed that these Indian trawlers are exploiting millions of dollars worth of marine resources in this region, depriving our local fishermen of their sustenance, and causing losses to our economy as well,” he said.
He also stated that our local fishermen avoid going out to sea when these Indian trawlers are present in our waters for fear that their boats and fishing gear will be damaged.
Herman further added that in spite of several rounds of talks held between the Indian and Sri Lankan authorities in order to address the issue the trawlers continue to encroach on Sri Lanka’s territorial waters. “Even our minister of external affairs Professor G.L. Peiris held discussions with the Indian authorities and both countries vowed to take this matter seriously, but so far the problem has not been resolved,” added Kumara.
Navy Spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasooriya said that around 5000 Indian trawlers enter Sri Lanka’s territorial waters daily. “We do our best to prevent them from entering our territory illegally and have made several arrests as well. We have deployed patrol crafts along our territory and conduct continues surveillance, but it is difficult for us to prevent all these Indian fishing boats from entering our waters,” he said.