Colombo, Feb 25 (IECurrentAffairs) The Sri Lankan ministry of fisheries has decided to fully enforce the Foreign Fishing Boats Act under which foreign vessels could be confiscated after being seized for illegal fishing in Sri Lankan territorial waters, according to a senior official.
The move comes in the wake of Thursday’s landmark judgment which ordered the confiscation of a Indian trawler worth three million rupees. It was seized off Pooneryn in the Kilinochchi district.
Fisheries Director General Prasanna Ginige said that vessels detained on allegations of illegal fishing would be dealt with under the new law which came as an amendment last year.
“We are taking this measure to prevent a large number of Indian fishermen indulging in illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters and destroying fisheries and aquatic resources,” Mr Ginige said.
He said, despite several discussions and warnings about the increased number of incidents of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing by Indian fishermen, no action had been taken to stop them entering Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, The Sunday Times reported.
The Director General said the Attorney General’s Department and the Fisheries Department recently held discussions with Northern Province’s senior lawyers, informing them that the new laws would be strictly enforced on foreign vessels being detained here.
On Thursday, Kilinochchi’s Magistrate Manikkawasagar Ganesharaja imposed a suspended two-year prison term on 11 Indian fishermen, as this was the initial stages the new law was being implemented.
The court also turned down the boat owner’s request to release the vessel. He had claimed that the crew did not know they were trespassing into Sri Lanka’s waters .
The Indian boat owner appeared in person after he was informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the legal action initiated against him.
Charged under the amended Act, the Indian boat owner was told by courts that he could appeal against the verdict within two weeks time at the High Court or the Director General of the Fisheries Department will fix the date for the public auction of the vessel and equipment as stipulated in the amended Fisheries Regulation of Foreign Fishing Boats (Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2018.
Instructed by the Attorney General (AG) department, the Ministry’s legal officers argued that since fishermen who were arrested along with Indian trawler pleaded guilty, Section 18 of the Foreign Fishing Boats Acts clearly said that “the boat concerned and everything found on it shall be forfeited” by the state.