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Palk Strait and Palk Bay UPSC NOTE

 Ongoing issue of Indian fishermen being arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Bay 

  • The continuing arrests of fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry by the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Bay.

  • These are despite diplomatic interventions at the highest level, and the attacks on them mid-sea by armed civilians are a matter of serious concern

  • Indian fishermen cross into Sri Lankan waters in search of catch, It’s a fact.

  • This will affect the livelihood of Sri Lankan Tamil fishers

  • The detention of 23 fishermen and the seizure of two trawlers on Saturday, off Delft island on charges of “poaching”, has taken the number of those arrested so far this year to 69, compared to 240 the whole of last year

  • Since 2013, Sri Lankan authorities have also remanded some fishermen in judicial custody for several months. 

  • This year, 34 fishermen, including 12 who were arrested last year, have been released, while over 45 men remain in custody. 

  • By the time these boats are released through a judicial process or following diplomatic talks, most are not in a sea-worthy condition.

Reasons for Indian fishermen entering Sri Lankan waters – concerns – way forward

  • Sri Lanka is under pressure from its northern province fishermen to act against Tamil Nadu fishermen.

  • They accuse of resorting to destructive bottom trawling, a practice banned by the country since July 2017

  • While India promised to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay and incentivise fishermen to take to deep-sea fishing under the Blue Revolution Scheme. 

  • Fishermen also face a practical problem as under the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act 1983, mechanised fishing boats are permitted to fish only beyond three nautical miles from the coast.

  • Since the distance between Dhanushkodi and the International Maritime Boundary Line is only nine nautical miles.

  • Breaches do occur, a point the Sri Lankan Navy should not overlook. 

  • As Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised in 2015, the tensions over fishing must be handled as a “humanitarian concern”. 

  • Unfortunately, neither side has demonstrated consistency in the handling of the issue

  • In November 2016, the countries had agreed upon a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries that would meet every three months.

  • Also have a bi-annual meeting of the Ministers of Fisheries

  • But the JWG has held just five sittings, the last one being in 2022. 

  • Tangible and targeted action is needed to encourage deep-sea fishing, bottom trawling being given up and the issue resolved with mutual compassion and periodic talks.

  • Failing this, the Palk Bay would remain perilous territory for Indian fishermen.

Palk Strait and Palk Bay – basic details

  • The Palk Strait is a strait between the Tamil Nadu state of India and the Jaffna District of the Northern Province of the island nation of Sri Lanka. 

  • It connects the Bay of Bengal in the northeast with Palk Bay in the southwest

  • It is 40 to 85 miles wide and 85 miles long.


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