Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratna said that Indians or Sri Lankans cannot cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) illegally and not be arrested.
He said that maritime laws will be followed and even if Sri Lankan fishermen cross into Indian waters illegally they will be arrested.
The Minister’s comments came as India and Sri Lanka exchanged fishermen freed by both countries. The exchange took place at the IMBL this afternoon.
The navy said that around 50 Indian and another 50 Sri Lankan fishermen were exchanged at the IMBL.
Meanwhile, a fishermen delegation from Sri Lanka today sought restrictions being placed on fishermen of the two countries from crossing their respective borders.
“Both the sides must stop straying into other countries. Indian fishermen should not be allowed to enter our waters, while the Sri Lankan fishermen must not stray into Indian waters for fishing,” the Indian media quoted Albert Justine Soysa, a Sri Lankan fishermen leader, as telling reporters in New Delhi.
“We are of the view that this would resolve the existing problems over fishing between the two neighbouring countries,” he added.
The delegation of Lankan fishermen visited India to hold talks on crucial issues affecting fisheries. Soysa also dismissed reports of Tamil Nadu fishermen being arrested when they are fishing within Indian waters.
Stressing that the Lankan navy does not detain fishermen beyond its borders, he alleged that Indian fishermen indulge in fishing deep inside the Lankan territories.
“The problem will not arise if Tamil Nadu fishermen are engaged in fishing near Katchatheevu. But, they navigate till Mullaitheevu, which is located over 100 km away from the Indian borders, creating problems,” he claimed.
The fishermen further charged that marine resources in Sri Lankan waters were affected due to the fishing methods adopted by the Indian fishermen.
Naganathy Ponnambalam, another fishermen leader from Jaffna Province in northern Sri Lanka, raised concerns over the use of mechanised boats by the Indians. “The use of mechanised boats, which is a threat for marine resources, is not only dangerous for Indian fishermen, but also to the fishing community in Sri Lanka and East Asia,” he said.
On the proposed talks between fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka on January 20, the delegation claimed that they were also hopeful that the meeting would be convened.