On Thursday, scores of northern Sri Lankan fishermen took to the streets, blaming Indian fishermen for the recent death of two Jaffna fishermen “in a clash” at sea. The agitating fishermen protested the continuing use of the bottom probing fishing method by Indian fishermen, “ravaging” their seas.
Long-festering tensions between fishermen in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province and Tamil Nadu have escalated in recent weeks, following two clashes mid-sea on January 27 and 29, when Indian trawlers reportedly rammed into smaller Sri Lankan fishing boats.
Days later, the bodies of two fishermen from the Jaffna peninsula were recovered, according to Annalingam Annarasa, who leads the Federation of Jaffna District Fishermen’s Cooperative Society Unions.
The current flashpoint has not only escalated an old conflict but has also set back proposed talks among fishermen and ongoing bilateral attempts to find a solution to the crisis.
In the long history of the Indo-Lanka fisheries conflict, Tamil-speaking fishermen on either side of the Palk Strait have rarely resorted to physical attacks on each other, although the Sri Lankan Navy has often been accused of attacking and killing Indian fishermen. In 2021, five fishermen from Tamil Nadu died in the Palk Strait.
After the bodies of two of our fishermen were found recently, everyone is outraged and very concerned. Today, we protested outside the Governor’s Secretariat, the Jaffna District Secretariat, and the residence of the Indian Consul General here, demanding that bottom trawling, which is the cause of all these problems, is immediately stopped,” Mr. Annarasa.
“Both our governments and fisher leaders have been talking about this for more than a decade now, where is the solution? We are willing to speak to Tamil Nadu fishermen, but only on the condition that they immediately stop using bottom trawling, which has severely impacted marine resources in the Palk Strait and all our livelihoods that depend on them,” Mr. Annarasa said.
Despite their repeated appeals, Northern Sri Lankan fishermen voiced frustration over their Tamil Nadu counterparts for stubbornly persisting with the destructive bottom trawling method.
They also blamed the Sri Lankan Navy for inadequate action against violators, and Sri Lankan authorities for failing to implement laws passed specifically to address the problem.
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