Jan 16, 2014, 3:48 AM
News Code: 80997558
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India, Sri Lanka to release each other's fishermen, vessels

New Delhi, Jan 16, IRNA -- India and Sri Lanka Wednesday agreed to free all fishermen and release their vessels under their custody 'immediately', Sri Lankan Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Rajitha Senaratne said.

The process of releasing the fishermen and vessels would start from Thursday, he said, adding he would be directing his ministry and the Attorney General's department in this regard.

'About 160 Sri Lankan fishermen and four vessels are to be released from India. On the part of Sri Lanka, 236 (Indian) fishermen and 90 boats are to be released,' pti reported quoting Senaratne as said after meeting Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar here. He said a meeting between the fishermen of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu would held as per the request of Indian government.

Asked about the key issues likely to figure in the meeting, Senaratne said his country would raise the issue of bottom trawling by Indian fishermen.

'About 1,200 boats are entering into Sri Lankan waters every day and doing bottom trawling, which is banned in Sri Lanka,' he added.

The Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister alleged 45,800 boats from India have entered Sri Lankan waters for bottom trawling, which, according to him was a very bad method of fishing.

Bottom trawling relates to casting of fishing net so deep in the sea that when the net is picked up, it tends to bring with it besides fish other forms of marine life.

He denied the charge the Sri Lankan Navy was attacking Indian fishermen. 'Your (Indian) own navy commander, your own Director General of Coast Guard have informed the court that it was not so,' he told reporters.

Moreover, a six-member committee, comprising three Indian and Sri Lankan officials, has been constituted to resolve the problems relating to fishing between the two countries. The first meeting of the committee would be convened here tomorrow.

While the Indian team would be headed by the Agriculture Secretary, the Sri Lankan side would be led by the Director General of Fisheries.

Senaratne also met his External Minister Salman Khurshid today.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has said the two countries have decided to set up an institutional arrangement to look into the fishermen apprehended by both sides.

'We have decided to set up an institutional arrangement to look into the fishermen arrested on both sides and to expedite the matter,' Pawar said.

'Hopefully from next week, we will see some development on both sides in this regard. If this does not work. we will soon take some other actions,' he added.

Pawar also said a draft memorandum of understanding has been prepared for fishery development/conservation and safety of fishermen. 'We are expecting their views to finalise the draft,' he added.

Meanwhile, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will take over from Sri Lanka 52 Indian fishermen and hand over a similar number of Lankan fishermen released by India to authorities of that country tomorrow.

ICG ship Vishwast will undertake 'concurrent repatriation' of the said number of fishermen, released by either countries that morning, a Coast Guard release here said today.

The 52 Lankan fishermen released by the Tamil Nadu government have been taken over from local authorities and handed over to Lankan officials at the Indo-Lankan International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) with ICG scheduled to take over 52 Indians from them, it said.