Sri Lankan government has appointed a three-member committee which will make recommendations on measures to stop poaching by Indian fishermen inside the country’s waters, the Ministry of Fisheries said on Tuesday, a week after four people were killed when an Indian trawler capsized after colliding with a Sri Lankan Navy vessel.
Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda has appointed the committee of senior officials from his ministry who would be talking to all stakeholders to try and find a permanent solution to this recurring issue, officials said.
Last week, India lodged a strong protest with Sri Lanka over the death of four fishermen in a collision between their vessel and a naval craft of the island nation, saying steps should be taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
The Indian fishing trawler sank in the Sri Lankan waters about 8 nautical miles within the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) northwest of Delft Island.The fishermen were from Tamil Nadu and they had set out for fishing on January 18.
India expressed “deep anguish” over the incident and emphasised the need to deal with issues pertaining to fishermen in a humanitarian manner.
“Existing understandings between the two governments in that regard must be strictly observed. Utmost efforts should be made to ensure that there is no recurrence,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi on January 21.
Commenting on the incident, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry Secretary Jayanath Colombage said that the issue was a people’s issue which needs to be looked at closely.
“The incident happened within our waters, when the boat had collided with the Sri Lankan Naval patrol craft”, Colombage, a former Sri Lankan Navy chief, told a local TV channel.
The Sri Lankan Navy said that on January 18 they seized Indian fishing trawlers allegedly poaching in Sri Lankan waters, trespassing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). The Navy said one of the Indian fishing trawlers, with aggressive manoeuvres attempted to evade the scene and collided with the Naval craft in operation and ultimately sank at sea having lost its stability.
Fishermen from both countries are arrested frequently for inadvertently trespassing into each other’s waters.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during his visit to Sri Lanka early this month held a meeting with Lankan Fisheries Minister and reviewed bilateral cooperation in fisheries.
During his five-day visit to India in February last year, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to resolve the long-festering fishermen issue with a “humane approach”.