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Lankan Fisheries Bill upsets TN

Statesman News Service | Chennai |

The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Amendment) Bill passed by the Sri Lankan Parliament last week has escalated the never-ending problems of fishing in the troubled waters of the international maritime boundary between Tamil Nadu and Sri lanka.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said there was widespread resentment and panic among the Tamil Nadu fishermen following the enactment of the legislation by the Parliament of the island nation.

“The new legislation with provisions to incarcerate fishermen for spending long period of time in the waters of the island and imposing huge penalties would affect the Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu,” Palaniswamy said.

He urged Prime Minister Modi to direct the External Affairs Ministry to register its strong protest and ensure the clauses are not implemented through diplomatic pressure.

According to legal experts, a close study of the Bill passed by the Lankan Parliament reveals that the island nation is worried over depleting aquatic wealth on its side of the international border due to the unlimited bottom trawling by foreign fishing vessels and the Bill was introduced to regulate this exploitation.

The Fisheries Act No 59 of 1979 (the Foreign Fisheries Boat Regulation Act) has been amended to prevent illegal fishing activities in the Sri Lankan waters and to protect the fisheries and aquatic resources of the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Accordingly a number of sections have been revised in the Act. The fine imposed on foreign fishing vessels that are seized has increased under the new amendment. The Bill aims at checking the bottom trawling along the Sri Lanka coast.

Fishermen and politicians from Tamil Nadu are apprehensive on the new legislation as the arrest and attack by Sri Lankan Navy on fishermen are a never-ending problem.
DMK working president M K Stalin condemned the BJP-led government at the Centre for behaving as if it has nothing to do with the new amendments.

“It is shocking to learn that an amendment had been passed in the Sri Lankan Parliament last Wednesday to impose a fine on TN fishermen in the Palk Bay ranging from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 7.24 crore. Sri Lankan government has backstabbed India by targeting the Tamil Nadu fishermen,” Stalin said in a statement.

MDMK leader Vaiko said the new Act was detrimental to the traditional fishing rights of the Tamil Nadu fishermen. “The Act has given more powers to the Sri Lankan Navy to arrest Tamil Nadu fishermen and seize their fishing trawlers and fishing nets,” said Vaiko.

Shyam Kumar, a lawyer specialising in the International Law of the Seas and a visiting faculty at the School of Legal Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology, says the legislation will impose a fee proportional to the vessel’s length and is of the view that India cannot make any protests over the amendments passed by the Lanka Parliament.

“Sri Lanka is a sovereign country. Both India and Sri Lanka has to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line. The island nation has every right to enact laws and legislations to ensure and preserve the marine and aquatic wealth in its territorial waters,” Syam Kumar said.

He said the need of the hour was co-operation and cordial ties with Sri Lanka. But if the leaders of both nations tend to ignore the plight of Tamil Nadu fishermen citing diplomatic conundrum it could spell another chaotic situation in Rameswaram and adjacent coastal districts which share maritime boundary with Sri Lanka.