India-Sri Lanka Fishermen Issue

What is the issue?

The fishermen issue continues to be a major irritant in the India-Lanka ties. This issue has a socio-economic dimensions, livelihood and humanitarian dimension and wants a long term solution to the problem.
Sri Lanka’s Position: It accuses Indian fishermen of straying into its territorial waters. It wants Indian fishermen to immediately end bottom trawling, a practice that depletes the ocean’s resources. It also has refused to return more than 100 trawlers seized since 2014.
India’s Position: Fishermen from Tamil Nadu are only fishing in their traditional areas, especially around Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974.
What are new developments in the issue?
  • India and Sri Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries and hotline between their Coast Guards
  • The JWG on Fisheries will meet every three months beginning January 2017 while the Ministers of Fisheries on both sides would meet every six months along with Naval representatives and Coast Guard to discuss the protracted issue.
  • Terms of reference of the JWG
    • Expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest.
    • Framing procedures for returning fishermen arrested by both sides .
    • Possibility of joint patrolling.
However, both sides failed to resolve the issue of their seized boats which has been an emotive issue in Tamil Nadu. This issue will be discussed at the first JWG meeting
Bottom Trawling Issue:
  • Bottom trawling by Indian fishermen had emerged as a major issue because of the disruptive impact it left on the coastal communities of Sri Lanka.
  • Earlier in July, Sri Lanka banned bottom trawling, increasing the chances of interception of more Indian bottom trawlers.
Initiatives taken by India to reduce Bottom Trawling:
  • Recent initiatives taken by the Government of India to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay area include the launch of a programme on diversification of bottom trawlers into deep-sea fishing vessels for tuna long lining under the Blue Revolution Scheme, construction of Mookaiyur and Poompuhar fishing harbours, and capacity-building programmes for fishermen of the Palk Bay area in deep sea tuna long lining.
  • Besides, fresh registration for bottom trawlers in the Palk Bay area has been banned by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
  • India has informed that schemes promoting seaweed farming and sea-cage farming have begun in the Palk Bay area to wean away fishermen from deep-sea trawling.


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