India requested Sri Lankan authorities to tackle the fisheries issue based on a humanitarian approach

India on Friday asked the Sri Lankan authorities to exercise caution so as to prevent any casualties in the course of crackdowns on fishing boats and suggested using paramilitary to apprehend civilian fishermen.

The matter was discussed at the 5th Meeting of India- Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on fisheries that took place in a virtual format.

“Both sides reviewed the developments since the last meeting of the Joint Working Group held in December 2020,” said a statement of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

The Indian side suggested using paramilitary to apprehend civilian fishermen.

Noting that relevant United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) clauses were fishermen friendly in spirit and letter, the Indian government requested Sri Lankan authorities to tackle the fisheries issue based on humanitarian approach, the statement added.

“Both sides reiterated the highest priority accorded by their respective Governments to the well being, safety and security of fishermen from the two countries,” it stated.

Both countries agreed that the use of force could not be justified under any circumstances, and reiterated in this regard the importance of extending humane treatment to all fishermen.

They assessed the continuing bilateral cooperation to tackle issues related to fisheries in the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar, the statement further said.

The two sides shared appreciation for the concerted efforts undertaken by both the governments to maintain safe and sustainable fishing, including the joint Naval patrols and hotline between coast guards, the statement mentioned.

The Sri Lankan side raised its concerns on the methods used by fishing vessels and stressed that it was imperative for the two countries to work together in drawing up effective measures to mitigate the loss of livelihood.

The Indian side took a constructive approach in its response and assured its assistance in this regard, the statement maintained.

The Indian side also elaborated on the steps undertaken by the Government to safeguard the marine environment and explained government measures to improve the fisheries order, it noted further.

This included stationing coast guard vessels at key sea routes requested by the Sri Lankan side, creating awareness on environmentally damaging fishing operations, and providing education, financial support and guidance to Indian fishermen to migrate to long liners fishing, the statement added.

The Indian side had earlier dispensed dry rations to Sri Lankan fisher families reflecting continuing interest in the well-being of the fishermen, it further mentioned.

The two sides noted with appreciation that they had maintained the momentum of cooperation by holding the 5th meeting on cooperation on fisheries issues even amid the COVID-19 situation, the statement said.

Both sides agreed to continue utilizing the meeting, as a significant communication channel for discussions on ways to improve the fishing situation and pursue joint research fisheries cooperation between the two countries, it further noted.

The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Rathnayake, Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries of Sri Lanka and the Indian delegation by Jatindra Nath Swain, Secretary (Fisheries), Government of India.