Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh today assured a high level ministerial delegation from Sri Lanka that the Indian government and the government of Tamil Nadu have taken a few effective measures to help Indian fishermen earn their livelihood in Palk Bay area peacefully and stop bottom trawling in a phased manner.
Singh had invited senior ministers of Sri Lanka to collectively sort out problems and issues associated with fishermen of both countries. A high level ministerial delegation from Sri Lank met Singh today. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was also present during the meeting. The Sri Lankan contingent incldued Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amraveera.
The Indian Agriculture Minister said that in order to reduce fishing pressure in the coastal areas and to encourage the Deep-sea fishing the Government of India is considering the modalities for implementation of a Scheme, in which it is proposed to incentivize the traditional fishermen for Deep- Sea Fishing.
“Traditional Fishermen from Coastal states including fishers from Tamil Nadu will be empowered under the proposed scheme for ‘Deep-sea fishing’. We hope that the fishermen from the coastal areas will be encouraged to move for Deep Sea Fishing through introduction of this scheme,” he added.
According to him, a ‘Special Package’ is being considered for encouraging the fishermen of Tamil Nadu to undertake deep sea fishing by diversifying their bottom trawlers into Tuna long liners. “ Our fisheries department has permitted for construction of fishing harbour at Mukaiyur, which is being executed by the State Government. At the same time, efforts are also being made regarding construction of fishing harbours at Rameshvaram and Ennore in Tamil Nadu.,” Singh informed the delegation.
He said that all these efforts may be useful in solving the fishermen issues between India and Sri Lanka. Besides, efforts are also being made to introduce modern technical information to the fishermen and to train them.
Fishermen from India and Sri Lanka have been fishing over centuries in the Palk Bay area located between India and Sri Lanka. Both the countries have mutually entered into agreement in 1974 and in 1976 to decide the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in accordance with the international rules. Given the proximity of the two countries in the sea, the incidents of straying of fishermen and crossing the IMBL are common, especially in the Palk-Strait and Gulf of Mannar. These have often proved to be risky for them. The instances of arrest of fishermen from Tamil Nadu (while fishing in Sri Lankan waters), seizure of their boats and attack by the Sri Lankan Navy are of great concern to the Indian government.
“Both the countries should agree upon a real and practical arrangement to address the issue of crossing the IMBL by fishermen. Issues related to the custody of fishermen should settle on ‘humanitarian grounds’ which may only be possible through mutual consent between both the countries,” Singh said.
Early this year, during the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting held in Colombo both the sides have understood the complexity of the fishermen’s issues and consented on the need of moving forward in finding a permanent solution of this problem.
On November 2, during a meeting between Fishermen’s Associations of India and Sri Lanka, the neighobur country demanded for ban on bottom trawling or other destructive fishing methods, which cause harm to the marine environment and biodiversity in the Palk Bay. Though this meeting remained inconclusive, both governments paid attention to their demands and now taking them into confidence in the decision making.
The Indian government was fully aware of the concerns expressed by Sri Lankan fishermen during the meeting, said Singh, adding that both countries need to make conscious and collective efforts in order to ensure availability of natural resources to future generation while meeting the livelihood needs of the present.