Twelve Sri Lankan fishermen on board two fishing boats were taken into custody last morning at Tutucorin in Chennai while on their way back passing through the maritime boundaries of India and Malaysia, Fisheries Ministry Assistant Director Lal De Silva said.
“Usually fishermen have to pass through the maritime boundaries of India and Malaysia after fishing in Arabian seas. Countries have different laws relating to their International Maritime Boundary Lines (IMBLs). Some consider crossing the boundary lines as an intrusion to their waters,” he said.
Mr. De Silva said the Indian High Commission and the Indian External Affairs Ministry have been approached to help release the Sri Lankan fishermen and their fishing trawlers.
Meanwhile the Indian media reported that the two fishing boats were intercepted off the coast of Kanyakumari yesterday while entering Indian waters without proper permission by the offshore Patrol Vessel of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
The fishermen and their boats are likely to be brought to Chennai this afternoon.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka Fisheries Ministry said the Attorney General’s Department yesterday ordered the release of 76 Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody while detaining their fishing boats and fishing equipment.
“Twenty more Indian fishermen are being detained in Sri Lanka. Arrangements are being made to release them as soon as possible,” the Ministry said.
In May, just ahead of his visit for the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of the Indian fishermen who were in custody at that time. In a similar “goodwill gesture” in August several more Indian fishermen were released on account of the India’s Independence Day.
Thirty nine more Sri Lankan Fishermen are still in the Indian custody and requests have been made through the Indian High Commission and the Indian External Affairs Ministry to help release the Sri Lankan fishermen and their fishing trawlers.