Sri Lanka detains 29 Indian fishermen

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Colombo, Feb 13 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s navy detained 29 Indian fishermen Thursday as tension continues to brew between the two countries over poaching, an official said.

The 29 fishermen and seven boats were noticed by the navy while on routine patrol and they were escorted to the northern part of Sri Lanka and handed over to the police, Xinhua quoted navy spokesman Kosala Warankulasooriya as telling reporters.

“The fishermen were engaged in fishing in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters using methods that are banned by local law,” he added.

The arrests come as fishermen in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province issued a deadline to local and Indian fishermen to stop using illegal fishing methods in the island’s territorial waters.

The Jaffna Fishermen’s Federation issued a warning to Indian and local fishermen, asking them to stop using fishing methods that are prohibited in the Northern waters from Feb 15.

Federation president A. Emiliyampillai was quoted by local media as saying that the decision was taken in order to preserve the marine diversity in the Northern waters from the area surrounding Chundikulai in the northeastern part of the Jaffna peninsula up to the Delft Island.

He explained that bottom trawlers and other types of fishing gear like purse seine nets have been prohibited to safeguard the marine resources in the waters.

He added that Indian trawlers remained a big challenge to the Northern fishermen since they violate whatever decisions had been taken to prevent the infiltration of Indian boats into Sri Lankan waters.

Sri Lanka and India have long-standing issues over fishermen from both countries illegally crossing over to the other’s maritime waters and poaching.

Just last month the two sides exchanged over 400 fishermen detained by each other after high-level talks to resolve the issue of illegal fishing.

Sri Lankan fishermen have alleged that illegal fishing methods are destroying the seabed in the Palk Strait that is shared by local and Indian fishermen.

The Indian government during talks in January agreed to assist in ending illegal fishing practices.

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