COLOMBO: Imposition of a heavy fine on those who indulge in illegal fishing is a European Union (EU) requirement, and therefore, there is no way Sri Lanka can exempt Tamil Nadu fishermen from being fined heavily for poaching in Sri Lankan waters and using banned methods of fishing, the Secretary to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Fishing, Mrs.W.M.M.R. Adhikari, told Express on Wednesday.
The high-ranking official said that a new tough law to regulate Sri Lankan and foreign fishing is in parliament and that it will be debated soon.
Adikari said that the measure has a ring of urgency about it because the European Union had imposed a ban on Sri Lankan fishermen for indulging in illegal fishing - a ban which was lifted recently after Sri Lanka promised to take steps to curb such fishing.
The new law would impose heavy fines on native and foreign fishermen who indulge in illegal fishing, she said.
The Sri Lankan Minister of Fisheries, Mahinda Amaraweera, had stated that Sri Lanka would impose a fine of LKR 150 million ( INR 7 crore) on Indian fishermen who fish in Sri Lankan waters and who also use trawlers which destroy marine resources.
Asked if a fine as high as LKR 150 million is being seriously considered, Adhikari said that the fine amount is being discussed but it will be heavy enough to be a deterrent.
Meanwhile, other official sources said that the next meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries (JWGF) will be held on December 30 or 31, either in Colombo or New Delhi. A visit to Colombo by the Indian Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Radha Mohan Singh on January 2 or thereabouts is also on the cards.
Significantly, the JEGF does not have representatives of the Tamil Nadu government. It has representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the navies and coast guards of the two countries.
At the last JWGF meeting, India had, for the first time in the history of the fishing dispute, said that it will consider the Sri Lankan proposal for joint patrolling of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
If joint patrolling is resorted to, the Indian Coast Guard and Navy will be sharing with Sri Lanka the onerous and sensitive responsibility of preventing poaching in the sea between the two countries.
According to the Sri Lankan Fisheries Ministry, the island nation is losing LKR 9 billion a year, as a result of poaching by Tamil Nadu fishermen.