Lanka: No common fishing zone

By Chris Kamalendran

Sri Lanka has ruled out common fishing zones with India and will insist on adhering to maritime boundaries between the two countries, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said yesterday.He said Sri Lanka would continue to insist that the fishing rights of the fishermen were protected in keeping with international maritime laws.

The issues about fishing rights will figure during next month’s Colombo meeting of the India-Sri Lanka joint committee on fisheries.

Dr. Senaratne said what had happened in the past was that Sri Lanka was unable to exercise its fishing rights in the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar due to the war but now the country was in a position to monitor fishing in the area.

The Fisheries Minister reiterated Sri Lanka’s position after Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao this week emphasized on studying the possibility of a common fishing zone.

Speaking at an international conference in New Delhi, Ms. Rao said many countries around the world regard fisheries resources as a ‘common pool resources’ adding that “fish care nothing about political boundaries demarcated between countries”.

“We need to understand the characteristic of the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar. These are narrow stretches of waters between our two coastlines. Historically, this been a traditional fishing area for both Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen,” Ms. Rao said.

She suggested that the two countries should study arrangement between other countries saying that some countries had set up common fishing zones.

Meanwhile Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa took up the issue of Indian fishermen when Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam called on her.

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