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Govt., Navy Inaction Encourage Indian Fisher Poaching

Jayanath Colombage

Indian fisher poaching in the North cropped up at a seminar in Colombo on Wednesday.
Navy Commander Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage speaking at this occasion said that however due to geopolitics, the navy’s hands were tied in taking action against such miscreants.

Literally thousands of Indian trawlers cross over to the Sri Lanka side daily, he said.

“We arrest a few, but, due to an agreement with Tamil Nadu (TN), they are released, together with their boats, and then they come again,” said Colombage.

“This is a reciprocal agreement with TN, if our fishermen are arrested, they too are released, but if those arrests take place off the Andaman islands, then they languish in jail for years,” he said.

“TN is one of the world’s largest shrimp exporters, but they catch those shrimps from our waters,” Colombage said.

“Our fishermen blame the navy and the government for not taking action against such poachers, as a result they have even resorted to taking the law into their own hands, that’s a dangerous trend,” he said.
Sri Lanka has some 165,000 active fishers.

“The Indians want licensed fishermen to fish in our waters, but we even don’t want them, this is after all our waters for our fishermen,” said Colombage.

“Indian fishermen also indulge in environmentally destructive fishing, having had already destroyed their own fishery pastures, they are now taking part in such illegal activity in our own waters,” he said.
It was also pointed out at this seminar that Sri Lanka’s fishery catch which was in the region of 300,000 metric tons (MTs) annually during the war days, has since increased to 400,000 MTs after the war end.

Over 60% of animal protein obtained by the Sri Lanka consumer is through the consumption of fishery products.
Ms. Tilarni Amath, Manager Business Development, Global Sea Foods (Pvt.) Ltd., another speaker at this event said that as a result of the loss of the GSP + duty free facility in Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU, fishery exports to that region have had had declined.
She said that the loss of GSP+ meant the reimposition of an 18-20% duty, which has affected Sri Lanka’s fishery exports to the EU.
It was also said at this seminar that while a kilo of lobster in Sri Lanka in the 1960s was a mere Rs. 5, it has since gone up to Rs. 4,500.
Three endangered  sea animals found in Sri Lanka’s waters are the dugong, shark and the manta ray, the latter two, due to demand by the Chinese.

Meanwhile Colombage said that one area where Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the marine sector is making money is by providing security to ships sailing on this part of the Indian Ocean, due to fears of piracy.
Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone is some 532,619 square kilometres in extent.

It was also said at this seminar that of two hotels that were hit in the 2004 tsunami, one escaped with no loss of life to its guests because it protected the sand dunes in its vicinity which acted as a buffer against the tsunami, but the other which had destroyed its sand dunes, witnessed only two survivors from the tsunami.

This seminar on Sri Lanka’s marine resources was organized by the Kadirgamar Institute.

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