The Indian central government has given an assurance to phase out bottom trawling within a practicable time frame, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said. He also said that the Indian Central government is focused on capacity building of the fishermen who have to be directed into optional fishing methods or new industries.
The minister was addressing the media after the second round of the bilateral discussions held between the Indian and Sri Lankan government officials.
Minister Amaraweera also said that both governments have discussed the issue of releasing fishing vessels in each others custody. The Sri Lankan government, he said, agreed to consider the request depending on the future progress of the Joint working Group
Amaraweera added that the Indian central government accepted the fact that bottom trawling is damaging to the sea bed.
The minister pointed out for the first time in the history of discussions on this issue.
“We have arrested all the illegal fishing boats trespassing our boundaries so much so that our fishing harbours are filled with them. We are adamant not to allow illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters,” Minister Amaraweera said.
“The Indian government has already directed 92 boats to use different fishing methods such as deep sea fishing and other coastal fishery activities such as seaweed culture, mariculture, pearl farming and so on,” Minister Amaraweera said.
A joint statement was also issued after the conclusion of bilateral talks yesterday.
The joint communique is a successful outcome of the Indo-Sri Lanka bilateral talks, Minister Amaraweera said, briefing the media on the progress of discussions.
TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran, when asked about the patrolling between the Coast Guard of two countries, said that both parties are confident that joint patrolling will work when the necessary facilities are arranged.
“The available resources for joint patrolling is a minimum. Sri Lanka only has around seven boats for patrolling in the concerned areas. We hope the joint patrolling to operate well, after these problems are overcome,” Sumanthiran said.
A ‘Hotline’ is to operate between the two Coast Guards. Asked on its purpose, MP Sumanthiran said that the communication system will prevent fishing vessels from crossing boundaries.
“One Coast Guard will be able to alert the other party, when a vessel cross the boundaries. Perhaps, a Coast Guard can also signal their respective vessels that cross boundaries to turn back before they are arrested by the opposite coast guard.” Sumanthiran said.
Indian Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh along with a delegation of 11 representatives participated in the discussion.
Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Fisheries Minister Dilip Wedaarachchi, Northern Provincial Council Fisheries Minister B. Deniswaran, Uva Provincial Council Estate Infrastructure Minister Senthil Thondaman, Defense Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi, along with Fisheries Ministry and Sri Lanka Navy officials represented the Sri Lankan delegation.
The next round of discussions is to be held in Colombo in April 2017 to review the progress made in addressing the fishermen issues in a comprehensive manner.