Southern fishermen demonstrate against poaching

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 August 2003, 18:41 GMT]
Hundreds of fishermen held a demonstration in front of the Fort railway station in Colombo Friday, condemning the Fisheries Ministry of Sri Lanka for not taking prompt action to stop poaching by foreign trawlers in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka. Fishermen from Matara, Galle and other parts of the south participated in the demonstration, Colombo sources said.

The fishermen alleged that more than 400 foreign fishing trawlers are engaged in poaching in the southern sea. Protestors carried banners and placards and shouted slogans against the government's inaction in stopping the poaching. A number of Peoples Alliance and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna parliamentarians also participated in the demonstration, sources said.

More than one hundred fifty thousand fishermen in the country face financial difficulties due to poaching by foreign fishing trawlers, said a former Fisheries Minister in the then Peoples Alliance government, Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse, addressing the protesting fishermen, sources said.

Mr. Rajapakse, who is also the leader of the opposition in Sri Lanka’s parliament, said further that foreign fishermen were damaging the fishing gear of local fishermen in the seas. “Foreigners are exploiting the country's sea resources. The government should take immediate steps to stop poaching by foreign trawlers,” he demanded.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Minister, Mr.Mahinda Wijesekara, denied that he has issued permits to number of foreign vessels to poach in the Sri Lanka's territorial waters. " I have not given a single permit for poaching. We have given 60 permits for unloading purposes only. These fish are not caught in Sri Lankan waters. Fish caught outside Sri Lankan terroritorial waters are unloaded in the country. Unloading helps us to generate income. I must say that you are wrong about poaching. There are no vessels that are poaching in Sri Lankan waters. There are only a few small Indian boats or traditional crafts, which are poaching in the north," said Mr. Wijesekara, according to sources.

Referring to the poaching in northern sea, Minister Wijesekara said, " We need a large vessel to detect poachers. We need to have a radar system. That's what the Indian government is doing."


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