COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan cabinet on Wednesday resolved to amend the existing law to regulate fishing in Lankan waters by foreign vessels in view of the considerable increase in poaching.
A note presented to the cabinet by Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that while legal actions have been taken years against foreign vessels which were illegally fishing in Lankan waters, a tightening of the regulatory mechanism has become necessary now in view of “considerable changes at the regional and international levels.”
A committee will be appointed to draft amendments to the Fisheries (Regulation of Foreign Fishing Boats) Act 59 of 1979. The committee will comprise officers of the Attorney General’s Department, Legal Draftsman’s Department, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, the Foreign Ministry, National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, the Coast Guard, the police, army, navy and air force, and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Poaching By TN Fishermen
The decision to amend the act comes in the wake of heavy poaching by fishermen from Tamil Nadu. The Lankan government’s policy of arresting the poachers and releasing them at the request of the Government of India has not yielded results. Even the confiscation of vessels has not deterred the fishermen.
Meanwhile, the Tamil fishermen of North Lanka are becoming restive. Their marine resources are being arrogated by the Indian intruders and destroyed by their harmful fishing methods including bottom trawling.
The Lankan and Indian governments have been of the view that the issue can be resolved by talks between the fishermen of the two countries. But this has not worked, despite three meetings.
While Tamil Nadu fishermen are claiming a “traditional right” to fish in the Palk Strait, and are asking for the right to fish for 87 days in a year, the North Lankan Tamil fishermen are averse to giving any concessions. They also complain that the Indian fishermen never keep their word.
The Northern fishermen now want stiff fines to be imposed. Minister Amaraweera does not want to spoil relations with India, but his patience is wearing thin. Recently, he said that he would ask India to compensate Lanka for the damage done to its marine environment in the North.