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Sunday, 10 April 2011

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Fishing in troubled waters:

Indian fishermen now target beche-de-mer

Indian fishermen poaching in our territorial waters have caused serious economic, and social implications. The tension building within the fishing community could lead to certain concerns unless immediate measures are taken by the Sri Lankan and Indian governments, said Senior Lecturer of Geography, University of Jaffna Dr. A.S. Sosai.

Dr. A.S. Sosai

Dr. Sosai said that if poaching by Indian fishermen on a large scale continues, within a few months the area from the Palk Straits and Mannar in the North to Puttalam in the North Western areas of Sri Lankan waters where all fisheries resources, coral reef and other marine bio diversity will be depleted.

Already thousands of fishers have lost their livelihood and there is no improvement in their economy as anticipatedafter the end of terrorism.

This is not a new problem and it is a three-decade long issue.

Earlier it was not serious because there were no large fishing vessels. The problem began after the number of trawler vessels increased in Tamil Nadu.

They started fishing in our territorial waters and poaching intensified after the end of terrorism.

This small sea area between Sri Lanka and India is rich in marine resources especially fish and the Indian section has been already exploited. Therefore, fishers enter our waters. The fishing gear including nets used by Indian trawlers are illegal and banned by the Sri Lankan government because they threaten marine resources. However, India has permitted these nets and fishing methods.

The fishing nets we use is the main reason for the conflict.

Our fishers use gill nets that are accepted as a sustainable fishing practice.

A gill net contains 30 units and one unit is around 50m length.

The cost of a unit of a gill net is around Rs. 300,000 and Indian trawlers come in their thousands and damage our fishing nets.

Due to this reason our trawlers do not fish in this area and Sri Lanka loses a large fish harvest daily.

Earlier Indian fishers came here to fish but today their target fish are beach-de-mer and other export items such as prawns and cuttle fish.

Beche-de-mer is an expensive export item with a huge market in East Asian countries.

One large beach-de-mer costs around Rs. 1,500 and each trawler can catch over 100 fish per-day which means that we lose over Rs. 5 billion a day. This is a daylight robbery of our resources.

Dr. Sosai said that there maybe some powerful political elements in Tamil Nadu behind this since catching beche-de-mer is illegal in India.

On the other hand, earlier the export of this type of fish had to be processed in a complex method.

The processing takes place somewhere in Tamil Nadu and this cannot be done without the support from Tamil Nadu politicians, he said.

 

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