Tamil Nadu leaders up in arms against Sri Lanka passing new Fisheries act to protect its fishery resources

Sri Lanka passing legislation to prevent illegal fishing activities in the Sri Lankan waters and protect the fisheries and aquatic resources of the coastal belt of the island has distressed the political leaders in Tamil Nadu state of India.

Sri Lanka’s parliament on Wednesday (24) passed the Fisheries (Regulation of Foreign Fishing Boats) (Amendment) Bill amending the Fisheries Act No 59 of 1979 to increase fines on foreign vessels poaching in the country’s waters.

The passing of the Amendment bill has distressed the political leaders in Tamil Nadu to the extent that they have urged the Indian Prime Minister to take highest possible diplomatic measures to ensure that the Sri Lankan government will not implement the act.

The pro-LTTE Tamil Nadu political leader, the general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), V. Goplasamy aka Vaiko has urged Indian government to immediately lodge its protest with the Sri Lankan government over the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Amendment) Bill, saying it would be detrimental to the traditional fishing rights of Indians, according to The Hindu.

Vaiko said the legislation gives sweeping powers to the Sri Lankan Navy and is detrimental to Indian fishers and called on the Central government to ensure that Sri Lanka withdrew the ‘controversial’ provisions of the Bill.

He said the proposed law would give more powers to the Sri Lankan Navy personnel to arrest Indian fishermen and seize trawlers and fishing nets. Above all, the Sri Lankan officials would impose hefty fines and harsher jail terms. The law, he alleged, was being brought in to stop fishermen of the Indian region from engaging in fishing.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu K. Palaniswami in a letter urged Prime Minister Modi to direct the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Mission in Sri Lanka to “immediately and effectively respond to this latest move by the Sri Lankan side, by registering our strong protest against the new legislation of the Sri Lankan Government and ensure that the Act is not implemented.”

He said the Sri Lankan government’s move has created widespread resentment and panic amongst the fishermen of Tamil Nadu, especially amongst the fishermen fishing in the Palk Bay.

The Act was amended to prevent illegal fishing activities in the Sri Lankan waters and protect the fisheries and aquatic resources of the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Under the Amended Act hefty fines of up to Rs. 175 million will be imposed on boats illegally entering Sri Lankan waters.

The vessels that enter the Sri Lankan waters illegally are the South Indian fishing boats from Tamil Nadu and usually those vessels enter the Sri Lankan waters and about three times a week and engage in illegal activities, Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Ministry says.

Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera says the current fine of Rs. 1.5 million for an intruding vessel is not a deterrent and it has been increased to a maximum of Rs. 175 million depending on the size of the foreign vessel.

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