COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s fishermen launched a flotilla of boats on Sunday demanding that the government block Indian trawlers from poaching in the island’s prawn-rich northern waters.
Boats flying black flags and carrying opposition legislators travelled 100 kilometres from the northeastern fishing town of Mullaittivu to the island’s northernmost tip, Point Pedro.
“We have come in boats to protest bottom trawling by Indian fishermen,” M.A. Sumanthiran, a legislator for the main Tamil opposition party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), told reporters in Point Pedro. Bottom trawling — which was banned from Sri Lankan waters in 2017 — involves dragging heavy nets across the sea floor to catch a large volume of fish. It causes severe damage to the marine ecosystem.
The TNA said it was protesting against Sri Lankan authorities’ failure to stop poaching by Indians and protect the impoverished local fishing communities.
There was no immediate comment from the government. India and Sri Lanka are separated by the narrow Palk Strait, a rich fishing ground known for jumbo prawns, and poaching has led to tensions between the South Asian neighbours.
Sri Lankan fishermen were not allowed to venture out during much of the island’s decades-long Tamil separatist war that ended in May 2009, allowing Indians a free run in the area. But there have been increasing tensions over poaching since Sri Lankan fishermen have been allowed to venture out again.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2021