- Recently, as many as 43 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were arrested and six boats seized by Sri Lankan Naval personnel.
- A total of 284 Indian fishermen were arrested by Sri Lanka in 2019 (210) and 2020 (74).
- Earlier in 2020, the Fourth Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries was held through virtual mode.
- Both Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen have been fishing into the Palk Bay area for centuries.
- Palk Bay is a semi-enclosed shallow water body between the southeast coast of India and Sri Lanka.
- Problem emerged only after a maritime agreement was signed by India and Sri Lanka in 1974.
- In fact, initially the 1974 border agreement did not affect fishing on either side of the border.
- In 1976, through an exchange of letters, both India and Sri Lanka agreed to stop fishing in each other’s waters.
- In 1974 and 1976 treaties were signed between the two countries to demarcate the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
- The treaties also ended up making the Palk Strait connecting India and Sri Lanka a ‘two-nation pond’, under the relevant United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) rules to the exclusion of all third nations.
- Simply put, the bilateral arrangement bans international fishing and shipping.
- However, the agreement could not stop the fishermen from fishing in these waters, as fishermen know no boundary.
- Despite the signing of maritime boundary agreements, fishermen communities of both the countries continued their fishing in the Palk Bay area peacefully until the Eelam war broke out in 1983.
- Nonetheless, after the end of War in 2009, the Sri Lankan fishermen have been raising their objection to Indian fishermen fishing in their waters.
- Later, India and Sri Lanka agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries in 2016 between India and Sri Lanka as the mechanism to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue.
- The fishing equipment that is prohibited in Sri Lanka must be banned by India in the Palk Bay.
- Fishing practises that do irreparable damage to marine ecology must be given up.
- The damage to the Indian fishermen could be ameliorated if the announcement is followed by two steps.
- The trawlers can be used in the Odisha coast where waters are very deep
- Trawlers could, with certain modifications, be used as smaller fishing vessels that cater to the mothership.
SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT