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Sri Lanka bans bottom trawling, Tamil Nadu raises concern

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-07-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Friday raised concerns over a Sri Lankan ban on bottom trawling, saying the move would prevent the state’s fishermen from exercising traditional fishing rights in the Palk Bay.

On Thursday, the Sri Lankan assembly amended the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act.

As per the new rule, a fine of 50,000 Lankan rupees (LKR ) will be imposed along with imprisonment of up to two years on those found guilty of bottom trawling.

The rule is expected to affect a section of fishermen from Tamil Nadu which engages in bottom trawling, a destructive method of fishing.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in a letter to the prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday said, “The legislation proposed is, in fact, a severe setback to the diplomatic efforts being taken to resolve the issue amicably.”

Palaniswami also highlighted that the passing of the bill comes at a time when ministers of both the countries and a joint working group on fisheries met recently to resolve Indo-Sri Lankan fishermen issues.

He said the unilateral move by the government of Sri Lanka will definitely hamper the joint initiatives taken by both the governments.

Bottom trawling is a destructive fishing practice which affects the marine ecosystem. While some fishermen from Tamil Nadu use this method of fishing, a section of fishermen from the northern Sri Lanka also engage in bottom trawling.

B Jesuraja, Ramanathapuram district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, said the government is making efforts to provide boats for deep sea fishing, in order to avoid bottom trawling. “But how can we adopt to it overnight?” he asked.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister, in his letter to the prime minister, said, “A livelihood issue of this nature is better resolved through promotional and developmental measures to introduce alternative modes and technologies, and not through such abrupt bans and punitive measures.”

Urging the centre’s immediate intervention, Palaniswami said, “… it would be fitting for the government of India to register its strongest disapproval of such move and must organize an effective defense of the rights of our fishermen in the Palk Bay.”

Earlier in the day, following the arrest of eight fishermen by Sri Lankan navy on Wednesday, the chief minister sought the centre’s intervention in the continuing detentions. Including the latest detentions, there are 50 fishermen and 143 fishing boats in Sri Lankan custody.

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