The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state in India has urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protest Sri Lanka amending its Fisheries Act and ensure the island nation will not implement it. Following the arrest of eight Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lanka Navy on Wednesday, the Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in a letter urged Prime Minister Modi 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.” Sri Lanka Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Mahinda Amaraweera said a draft bill amending the Fisheries Act No 59 of 1979 (Foreign Fisheries boats Regulation Act) has been presented in parliament. The Act will be 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, the Fisheries Ministry says. Tamil Nadu CM in his letter to the Indian Premier said the provisions in the Act were aimed at Indian fishing trawlers from Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Nadu fishermen, as well as their fishing gear, while they are “peacefully fishing in their traditional fishing waters of Palk Bay”. 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. Tamil Nadu government rejects India’s agreements entered into in 1974 and 1976 ceding Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka and establishing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and considers Palk Bay is Tamil Nadu fishermen’s traditional fishing grounds. “Palk Bay is the historic and traditional fishing area of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu. Their historical rights were simply signed away, as part of the ill-advised Indo-Sri Lankan agreements of 1974 and 1976, which also unilaterally ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, without having any foresight or concern for the plight of our innocent fishermen,” the Chief Minister wrote. He said the 1974 agreement is sub-judice before the Supreme Court of India and hence it would be fitting for the for the Government of India to register its strong disapproval of Sri Lanka’s move to amend the Act, wick will affect the livelihood of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the Palk Bay, at the highest diplomatic level. The Chief Minister also requested the Prime Minister to immediately take action through the highest diplomatic channels to secure the release of 108 fishermen and 165 fishing boats.