Curbing Bottom Trawling

Sri Lanka recently passed amendments to Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act banning the fishing practice of bottom trawling in their waters.

What is Bottom-trawling?

  • It is a fishing practice, which involves trawlers dragging weighted nets along the sea floor.
  • It is known to cause great depletion of fishery resources.

Ever since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009, fishermen of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority north have been trying to start fishing. For decades, they had been denied access to the sea by the armed forces and the LTTE. They began rebuilding their lives with very limited resources and huge loans. They are confronting the challenge of bottom-trawlers, originating from Tamil Nadu and trespassing into their waters.

Sri Lankan fishermen want an immediate end to incursions by Indian trawlers, and those from Tamil Nadu insist on a three-year phase-out period.

What measures taken by Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka recently banned the destructive fishing practice of bottom trawling in their waters, making violators liable for a fine of LKR 50,000 (approximately Rs. 20,000) and face two years imprisonment.

  • It was made by amending the country’s Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act.
  • The amendment is aimed at stopping local trawlers as well as deterring trawlers from Tamil Nadu.

What are the impacts?

  • The development could directly impact a section of fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who engage in bottom-trawling.
  • They have often been found trespassing in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.
  • It also sparked resistance from a small section of northern Sri Lankan fisher folk who had also begun using trawlers to maximise profits.
  • If this practice continues to gain ground even among local fishermen, the long-term consequences on fishing resources in the contested Palk Bay region will be irremediable.

The Central and State governments plan to provide 500 deep sea fishing boats with long lines and gill nets this year, as part of a plan to replace 2,000 trawlers in three years.

A Joint Working Group set up by both countries last year is in place.
Ultimately, the solution lies in the transition from trawling to deep sea fishing.
Ultimately, the solution lies in the transition from trawling to deep sea fishing.
An appropriate response from Tamil Nadu would be to expedite the conversion of its trawlers to deep sea fishing vessels, and not merely condemn Sri Lanka.

Besides the fisheries conflict, they need to discuss marine conservation, thus giving equal importance to protecting livelihoods and sustainable fishing.

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