09/13/2011, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Catholic Fishermen in Mannar complain that India is devastating ecosystem

by Melani Manel Perera
Resources are at risk. Residents in affected area want the government to enforce the law that regulates the maritime border and access to the waters of the two nations, which have been violated by Indian trawlers. The Fisheries and Defence Ministries show indifference to their plight.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – “Why is our government denying us the legitimate right to fish in our waters whilst allowing Indian fishermen catch fish undisturbed?” ask Catholic fishermen in the northern district of Mannar. They accuse the Defence and Fisheries Ministries of not taking any action to stop the constant violation of Sri Lankan territorial waters by Indian trawlers. They pledge “strong action” if the government does not find a solution to the problem.

Sri Lankan fishermen have been calling on Colombo to uphold the law that regulates the maritime border between the two nations and determines who has access to the waters.

Residents of Mannar District need a permit by the Defence Ministry if they want to go to sea. The same is not true for India, whose trawlers drag nets on the sea bottom with a devastating impact on the marine ecosystem and on resources. Indian boats cause serious economic and social harm to communities for whom fishing is the only source of livelihood.

“Every day, about 500 trawlers come from India. They destroy the seabed and the small fishes,” said fishermen Gerad, Nikson, Judsan, Lawrence, Stanley and Anthony. “If this goes on, there won’t be anything left in the future.”

The fishermen explain that the authorities are doing nothing, that no one is enforcing existing legislation. The fishermen’s request just gets passed around to someone else.

“The Sri Lankan Navy and Army say they can stop the trawlers, but must be authorised by the Defence Ministry. The issue is simple: either the government pays us 25,000 rupees a month, allowing us to live without fishing, or settles the issue right away.”

Mannar District is home to 7,849 families, for a total of 30,181 fishermen, including 1,892 fisherwomen.
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