Leaders of Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen have called for a resumption of the conciliatory dialogue which has been deadlocked since April last.
“We appeal to the External Ministry to facilitate the resumption of dialogue between fishermen representatives immediately to find a lasting solution as early as possible,” said M. Ilango, Chairperson of the Indian National Fishworkers’ Forum.
W. Herman Kumara, convener of National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Sri Lanka had told The Hindu that talks should be commenced and at same time government should take the dialogue seriously.
“It should not drag any further. There should be immediate agreements respected by governments and fishermen on both sides.”
Explaining the reason behind the deadlock, Mr. Kumara contended that it was because Indian fishermen wanted to fish for 83 days in Sri Lankan waters each year for a period of three years. Though Sri Lanka had accepted it as a livelihood issue, the problem is that there has been not been a clear of indication of reduction of over-fishing from the Indian side, he said.
According to Mr. Kumara, around 2,000 boats cross the border from Mandapam and Rameswaram to the Sri Lankan side.
“When the trawlers come in, the nets and boats of Sri Lankan fishermen are affected. Fishermen on the northern Sri Lankan side are more concerned about their sustainability and resources. There are so many internal conflicts because of this,” he said.
Both fishermen camps had arrived at a written agreement in 2010 under which Indian fishermen agreed that they would fish only up to 70 days in Sri Lankan waters a year. They had also stated that after one year, they would phase out from Sri Lankan waters and go for deep sea and tuna fishing. But, it never happened.
“Now in 2015, they bargained for 83 days . We wanted to come to agreement at that time. However, Sri Lankan fishermen declined to commit to an agreement in the absence of a concrete assurance,” said Mr. Kumara.
Claiming there is no serious consideration by the governments on the issue, Mr. Kumara said the Joint Fisheries Working Committee was not functioning properly.
“We are totally against the killings or harassment of fishermen, irrespective of whether they are Indian or Sri Lankan. There should be some patrolling so that Indian and Sri Lankan sides keep to their own maritime boundaries.”