Sri Lanka, India agree to enhance bilateral corporation on fishermen’s issues

Jan 14, Colombo: Reiterating that the well-being, safety and security of fishermen from the two countries are of highest priority, Sri Lanka and India have agreed to be more flexible and enhance bilateral corporation on the fisheries issues that have been nagging the neighbors.

Noting that developments made at a joint meeting held in March 2011 in New Delhi had a salutary effect, the two countries, at the just concluded 4th meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries held in Colombo, agreed that the use of force could not be justified under any circumstances and reiterated the need to extend humane treatment to fishermen from both sides.

During the two-day meeting held on 13-14 January 2012, Sri Lanka stressed the need to respect the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) but showed flexibility in expediting the release of fishermen captured when they cross the IMBL.

The two countries, noting that the Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of 26th October 2008 had since led to a decrease in violent incidents, have agreed to allow both countries to pursue their fishing activity in a safe, secure and sustainable manner, including discouraging fishermen from using destructive fishing methods, a joint statement issued by the two countries said.

The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Ms. Kshenuka Senewiratne, Additional Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Indian delegation by Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of India.

The 11-member Indian delegation had representatives from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and a host of agencies, including the Indian Coast Guard.

The two sides have also discussed measures for the expeditious release of bonafide fishermen from both countries.

“Both sides noted the importance of an ongoing engagement between fishermen and fishermens associations in India and Sri Lanka. They agreed to encourage a continued dialogue process between the fishermen’s communities of the two countries through regular meetings. In this context, it was agreed that a delegation of fishermen’s representatives from Sri Lanka would visit India at the earliest in 2012,” the stamen said.

The delegations, exchanging views on measures to manage the fishery resources in their respective waters, have emphasized the need to conserve marine resources and protection of marine ecology and ageed to the joint development of fisheries and marine resources in the Palk Bay area and the Gulf of Mannar.

The two sides also agreed to develop programmes for bilateral exchanges in aquaculture and fishing related activities, including training in fisheries management, genetic improvement of cultured species, fishing technology, exchange of scientists, etc.

A Memorandum of Understanding on development and cooperation in the field of fisheries and an agreement to set an early date for the work were also suggested during the meeting.

The Indian delegation appreciated Sri Lanka’s assistance in rescuing Indian fishermen stranded due to cyclonic weather conditions in the Palk Straits area in recent weeks, enabling their speedy repatriation and facilitating the visit of a team from India to salvage the grounded boats.

Both sides agreed to hold the meetings of the Joint Working Group on a regular basis, at least once in six months. The next meeting is to be held in New Delhi at mutually convenient dates.

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