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. It 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.
The decision to amend the act comes in the wake of heavy poaching by fishermen from Tamil Nadu. Lanka’s policy of arresting poachers and releasing them at the request 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 as their marine resources are being destroyed by the Indian intruders 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. While TN fishermen are claiming a “traditional right” 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 complain that the TN fishermen never keep their word.