Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Radha Mohan Singh has said India will ask Sri Lanka for the release of more than 140 mechanised boats, confiscated and impounded by the Sri Lankan government after their navy arrested fishermen on charges of trespassing.

Talking to the press in Rameswaram on Monday after the Inter-session meeting of the consultative committee on ‘Marine Fisheries – Mariculture in India’, he said the Joint Working Group (JWG), followed by Ministerial meeting, scheduled to be held later this month would take up the issue.

He said the JWG and Ministerial level meetings were scheduled for July 5 and 6 in Colombo, but had to be postponed after the Sri Lankan cabinet reshuffle.

The meeting is likely to be held by the end of this month, where India will take up the issue of the boats, the Minister said.

On being asked, Tarun Sridhar, Secretary, Animal Husbandry said considering the complexities of the fishermen issue, the Centre, in consultation with Tamil Nadu government has taken significant steps towards finding a permanent solution .

He said three JWG and Ministerial level meetings have been held so far after the formation of the JWG in November, 2016 to find a solution.

After the intervention of the Centre, the Sri Lankan government has released 1,602 fishermen arrested by their navy since May 2014, he said.

“As of date there is no Indian fisherman languishing in the Sri Lankan Jails,” he said.

“The Centre had also secured the release of 120 trawlers confiscated by the Lankan authorities.

Efforts are on to get back the remaining 168 vessels, he said. A team deputed by the Tamil Nadu fisheries department, which inspected the vessels – 147 mechanised boats and 21 country boats last week, found only 28 of the trawlers were worth salvaging.

Blue revolution

Apart from promoting deep sea fishing to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay, the government will assist to the fisher folk in mariculture and seaweed cultivation, Mr. Sridhar said.

The Centre has released Rs. 312 crore for deep sea fishing scheme in 2017-18, he said.

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