The Sri Lanka Navy has arrested 12 Indian fishermen and seized their trawlers for allegedly poaching in the country’s territorial waters. The fishermen were arrested off the coast of Vettilaikerni in northern Jaffna district on Wednesday, the Sri Lanka Navy said in a statement.
They are currently detained at the Kankesanthurai fishing harbour, it said. "Sri Lanka Navy has stepped up its patrols and operations in the country's waters to curb illegal fishing practices of fishing trawlers", it said.
Hundreds of Indian fishermen arrested this year
The Sri Lanka Navy has arrested 264 Indian fishermen and seized 36 trawlers this year. Illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen has been a recurrent problem despite many high-level talks held between the two sides.
In the past, the Sri Lanka Navy personnel has even fired at Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait and seized their trawlers in several alleged incidents of illegally entering Sri Lankan’s territorial waters.
In a similar incident last month, 15 Indian fishermen were detained by the Lankan navy from the northwestern coast of Mannar Island for poaching in the country's territorial waters.
Palk Strait a key zone of contention
The Palk Strait, which is a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, is a rich fishing ground for fishermen from both countries.
There have been periodic instances of Indian fishermen being apprehended by Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line and fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
While Sri Lanka has instituted an ecological ban on the use of mechanized trawlers for fishing, Indian fishermen have continued to use the same to make big catches. This has fanned tensions amongst the fishing communities in the two countries.
(With inputs from PTI)