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Sunday, 3 March 2013

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India, Sri Lanka seek solution to destructive fishing method

The long-unsettled fishermen's cross border issue has again reached centre stage with the Union of Mannar District Fishermen's Cooperative Societies (UMDFCS) having staged a protest demonstration against the destructive methods of fishing that deplete fish stocks.

Over 2,500 fishermen staged the demonstration in protest against several problems faced by them including the continuing bottom trawler fishing by Indian fishermen that has progressively depleted the fish life in the once fertile fishing waters, the destruction coral reef and other breeding grounds, the migration to other zones of rare fish varieties, conch shell and sea cucumber fishing by scuba divers in the coastal seas in violation of the stipulated regulations and the 'pass system' being implemented by the Navy.

After their one km protest demonstration the fishermen handed over a memorandum to Mannar GA Sarath Ravindra, according to reports.

Although discussions were started by the Mannar Secretariat to totally ban this fishing method, whether or not any decisions reached can be implemented effectively is a matter for doubt , fisheries sources said.

President of the UMDFCS N.M. Alam told the Sunday Observer that there are 32 fishermen's cooperative societies in their organisation and the livelihood of over 30,000 fishermen in the district is in jeopardy due to the problem of destructive fishing methods. Many of the fishermen have to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence because the fish stocks are being progressively depleted. The Government of the two countries should find an early solution to this problem, he said.

The fishermen are even willing to go deep sea fishing if the two governments would provide them the initial training and the necessary fishing gear, he said.

Prof. A.S. Soosai of the Department of Geography of the Jaffna University talking to the Sunday Observer on this issue said that the mechanical trawlers used for bottom trawler fishing possess the power to adopt a modern method to maximise the catch. Each trawler has the capacity to operate continuously for 12 hours and these special features of the trawlers, mostly those used by the Indian fishermen, result in massive exploitation of the marine resources of the traditional fishing grounds. Because of the operation of the Indian trawlers, many types of fishing gear ; such as drift nets, traps etc are getting damaged or lost. This causes loss of millions of rupees worth of fishing gear of the native fishermen, Prof. Soosai said.

This is a development for grave concern in Southern Mannar, where small scale fishermen and beach sceneries are getting increasingly obstructed by the new illegal and dangerous fishing method. The newly developed type of stake net or wing net (Tamil: Ahalasiragu valai/ Sinhala: Kattudala) demands the serious and immediate attention of the government, he said.

This stake net is like a large fence in the sea, consisting of 20 to 50 pieces of 9 metre galvanised iron poles (very sharp), to which the enormous nets are fixed in a stretch of about 50 metres. Hundreds of these nets are placed covering about ten km of sea from the South Bar Beach up to Coral Reef Bar. This has the following implications such as; all schools of fish coming from the North of Thalaimannar getting caught in these nets restricting the movement of the fish to the coastal sea.

Fishermen using fibreglass boats find it difficult to navigate, specially in the nights, because the protruding poles will damage their boats ( a number of boats have already been damaged in this manner) Soosai said.

The stake net has been in use as a traditional fishing method but in a different manner altogether. It was used only in lagoons, its size was smaller and only wooden poles were used instead of the current iron poles.

 

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