November 6, 2016
Chennai: India and Sri Lanka decided to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries to meet every three months and hold a meeting between the fisheries ministers every six months during extensive ministerial- level talks here on possible mechanisms to find a permanent solution to the emotive issue of fishermen.
Ministers of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh held comprehensive discussions with Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera on “possible mechanisms to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issues”, a joint press statement said in Delhi on Saturday.
Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan and Sri Lankan Member of Parliament MA Sumanthiran were also part of the two delegations.
“The two sides agreed on setting up of a JWG on fisheries to meet every three months and a meeting between the ministers for fisheries every six months. The delegations would include representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Coast Guards and Navies of both countries. The first ministerial meeting would be held on January 2, 2017 in Colombo,” the statement said.
Expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest, working out the modalities for the Standard Operating Procedures for handing over of apprehended fishermen, and ascertaining possibilities for cooperation on patrolling are among the terms of references for the JWG. The issue of release of detained fishing vessels will be discussed at the first JWG meeting, the statement said, adding the ministers noted that the process is underway for the release of fishermen presently in custody on either side.
Both governments agreed on the setting up a hotline between the two Coast Guards, and expediting the provision of communication tracking sets to the fishermen. Addressing the meeting, Radha Mohan said that India is considering the modalities for implementation of a scheme to encourage deep-sea fishing. A special package is being worked out for Tamil Nadu fishermen to undertake deep-sea fishing, he said in a statement.
Permission has been granted for construction of a fishing harbour at Mugaiyur in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu and efforts are being made to set up fishing harbours at Rameshwaram and Ennore. “All these efforts may be useful in solving fishermen’s issues between India and Sri Lanka,