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Positive Indo-Lanka discussions on fisheries issue

Sri Lanka and India agreed to find a permanent solution at the earliest to the fisheries issue which has lasted for more than three decades between the two countries.

This follows Ministerial level discussions between Fisheries and Aquatic Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and India’s Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh, in New Delhi last Saturday.

Fisheries Ministry media spokesman W.M.D. Wanninayake speaking to the Daily News said the Government of India commended the initiatives taken by the Sri Lankan Government with regards to the sensitive issue.

Wanninayake said following “positive discussions” both ministers agreed to reach a final decision on the bottom trawling issue, which is one of the main concerns in the long lasting issue. He also said that Indian government has highly appreciated the dedication with which the Sri Lankan government is addressing the issue, despite the fact that bottom trawling by the Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan sea area destroy its seabed.

“According to Wanninayake, the Indian Government has also observed that the Sri Lankan government has released 42 fishing vessels in the last year arrested for illegal fishing. It has also noted the contribution done by the Sri Lankan Navy to repair six such vessels which were not in a condition to travel,” Wanninayake also said.

Wanninayake pointed out that the Indian government also has taken impressive steps towards solving the bottom trawling issue.

“The Indian government has taken several important steps to solve the bottom trawling issue as well. By the end of 2016, the Indian government ceased from issuing a license for bottom trawling. Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Svaraj, delivering a special statement to the Indian Parliament last month said, the Indian government has allocated Indian Rs.15 billion to redirect fishermen doing bottom trawling fishing to other forms of income. The Indian government is also promoting seaweed cultivation and deep sea fishing as an alternative to the bottom trawling method. They have converted a number of bottom trawling vessels into deep sea fishing vessels as well,” Wanninayake pointed out.

The ministerial-level meeting was followed by the third meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries held last Friday. The Joint Working Group meeting was co-chaired by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries of India and Sri Lanka’s Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry Secretary Mangalika Adhikari.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India, issuing a press statement, said that “The Indian side was satisfied with the progress on release of apprehended fishermen and detained fishing vessels in the recent past, while reiterating the release of all the remaining Indian fishing vessels in Sri Lankan custody.”

The statement also said that India also apprised the Sri Lankan side about the recent initiatives taken by it to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay area. It also states that India let the Sri Lankan side know about alternative livelihood opportunities being offered to the fishing communities in the Palk Bay area through open sea cage farming, seaweed farming and other allied coastal fisheries activities.