Sri Lanka repatriates 21 Indian fishermen detained on allegations of illegal poaching News
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Sri Lanka repatriates 21 Indian fishermen detained on allegations of illegal poaching

The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka posted a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday that 21 Indian fishermen, who were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy due to alleged involvement in illegal poaching in Sri Lankan waters, were repatriated from Sri Lanka to Chennai, India.

Fishing is a bone of contention between India and Sri Lanka. At their closest points, India and Sri Lanka are only around 55 kilometers (34 miles) apart. The International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between the two countries was established through a pair of bilateral agreements in 1974 and 1976.  In 1976, the countries agreed to cease fishing in each other’s waters.

Despite the agreements, fishermen from either country continued fishing in each other’s waters. After the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009, Sri Lankan farmers raised objections about Indian fishermen and trawlers entering their waters. While Sri Lankan fishermen mostly fish in high seas using multi-day crafts, Indian fishermen are unable to shift fishing to the offshore areas of the Indian waters due to a lack of capability in fishing using multi-day crafts. Additionally, bottom trawling was banned in Sri Lanka in 2017.

There have been instances of Indian fishermen being apprehended and even shot by Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly crossing the IMBL and fishing in Sri Lankan water. The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers stated that 195 Indian fishermen and their 31 trawlers were arrested in Sri Lanka in 2023 alone. As per news sources, that figure had reached 240 by the end of the year.

On December 12, the Fisheries Minister of Sri Lanka Douglas Devananda told the Sri Lankan Parliament that the recurrent issue “necessitates a diplomatic resolution between the two nations.”