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
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)
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