Sri Lanka arrests 23 Indian fishermen for poaching in its waters

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Colombo: The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 23 Indian fishermen and seized two trawlers for allegedly poaching in the island nation's waters, according to an official statement here.

The fishermen were arrested, and their two trawlers were seized on Saturday north of the Delft Island, Jaffna, the Sri Lanka Navy said in a press release on Sunday.

The 23 apprehended fishermen and their two trawlers were escorted to the Kankesanthurai Harbour and will be handed over to the Mailadi Fisheries Inspector for further action, it said.

"The Sri Lanka Navy conducted a special operation to chase away Indian poaching trawlers from Sri Lankan waters on the night of February 3, 2024. The operation resulted in the seizure of 2 Indian trawlers and the apprehension of 23 Indian nationals poaching in the northern waters of Sri Lanka, off the Delft Island in Jaffna, the statement said.

The Navy conducts regular patrols and operations in Sri Lankan waters to curb illegal fishing practices by foreign fishing trawlers, taking into account the consequences of these practices on the livelihood of local fishermen.

In continuation of these efforts, the Northern Naval Command deployed Fast Attack Craft belonging to the Navy and Sri Lanka Coast Guard to chase away a cluster of Indian poaching trawlers, as the trawlers were detected engaging in illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters on Saturday.

The fishermen issue is a contentious one in the ties between India and Sri Lanka, with Lankan Navy personnel even firing at Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait and seizing their boats in several alleged incidents of illegally entering Sri Lankan territorial waters.

The Palk Strait, a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, is a rich fishing ground for fishermen from both countries.

There have been periodic instances of Indian fishermen being arrested by Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line and fishing in Sri Lankan waters.

In January, as many as 36 Indian fishermen were arrested by Sri Lanka.

In 2023, the island nation's Navy arrested 240 Indian fishermen along with 35 trawlers for allegedly poaching in Sri Lankan waters.