By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka is stepping up pressure on Indian fishing fleet poaching in local waters with operations both in the northern as well as eastern seas.
"We are trying to discourage them from crossing the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary, especially in the wake of an upsurge in poaching," a senior security official told The Island.
On the first day of the operation, the Sri Lanka Navy took 23 trawlers into its custody along with 141 fishermen in northern and eastern waters. Out of the total, the SLN netted 15 trawlers and 111 fishermen north-east of Trincomalee in the early hours of Wednesday. They were detected close to the land between Mullaitivu and Kokilai.
"We took the rest five nautical miles east of Analativu Island in the night. They were brought to Kankesanturai harbour and handed over to fisheries authorities," the official said. The night operation involved three Fast Attack Craft (FACs), one gun boat as well as one Coast Guard vessel.
Authoritative sources told The Island that legal action would be taken against those arrested while poaching in Lankan waters. Sources alleged that the Indian fishing fleet had deprived the northern fishermen of their livelihood; hence a sustained naval operation was needed to curb poaching.
Responding to a query, sources emphasized that India had the wherewithal to easily prevent them from crossing the maritime boundary. They alleged that Indian security authorities as well as fisheries officials were turning a blind eye to what was happening as the trawlers belonged to influential persons. The operation would continue regardless of ongoing protests in Tamil Nadu.
Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that the Tamil Nadu administration should take tangible measures to halt illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters.