Tamil Nadu Illegal Fishermen in Lankan Waters Could be Poaching 95,000MT Fish Valued Over US$750 Million Annually
Posted on August 26th, 2011

– Kumar Moses

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is a national crime by any standard. Over the years of LTTE activity, South Indian illegal fishermen entered Lankan waters and illegally fished. It went on for over 20 years during which time Tamil Nadu fish production kept going up leaps and bounds. After the decimation of the LTTE, Lankan fishermen started to fish freely in their own national waters only to find swarms of illegal South Indian fishermen exploiting the waters belonging to Sri Lanka.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Illegal fishing problem reached international levels when Tamil Nadu fishermen alleged they were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy; a charge denied by Sri Lanka. There cannot be any compromise on what belongs to Sri Lanka. A just resolution is needed.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The size and worth of the loot is truly shocking

According to Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Defence Secretary, on average 1,400 illegal boats, almost entirely fishing boats, enter Sri Lankan waters everyday.


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ According to a research paper published by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute of India, total marine fish production of Tamil Nadu in 1985-86 was 245,000 MT. Close to 70% of came from mechanized fishing boats. The number of mechanized fishing boats during that year was 2,502. Annual catch per mechanized fishing boat was 69MT of fish. Daily catch on average calculates to 188kg which is reasonable for a small mechanized fishing boat. It need not be a fishing trawler to catch 188kg a day.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ http://eprints.cmfri.org.in/3099/1/Article_10.pdf

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Over the last 25 years, average catch per boat has surely increased. However, assuming the numbers have stayed same, a conservative estimate of the plunder can be calculated.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ On average 1,400 boats a day would catch 263,200kg of fish. Annually it is over 96,000MT. Assuming an average price of 935 rupees for a kilo of fish in general and an exchange rate of 120 rupees a US dollar, the total worth of 96,000MT of fish is US$749 million.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In other words more than 1.5% of the GDP of the nation is plundered by illegal South Indian fishermen.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ True account of the crime may be different since averages are used. However, it would be reasonably close to these estimates calculated using authoritative sources in both Sri Lanka and India.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ What it means for Tamil Nadu

Illegally profiting annually to the value of US$749 million is big business by any standard. Hundreds of thousands of people depend on this massive economic activity. Now their regular and customary act of poaching is under the spotlight and under threat from legal fisheries activities by Sri Lankans.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

It is no secret the LTTE was financed and protected by politicians and other interested parties in Tamil Nadu along with the Tamil Diaspora. However, their tacit agreement was far deeper and sinister than their superficial dealings. LTTE disruptions in northern seas terrorised local fishermen from going to sea for over 20 years. It was a bonus for Tamil Nadu fishermen as they were the sole beneficiaries of the vast marine resource. Families and communities got used to this easy way of life of robbing Lankan resources. But after 2009 things changed to the worse for Tamil Nadu illegal poachers.

In addition, Tamil Nadu criminals benefited from selling diesel, medicines, drugs and various other banned goods to Tamil Tigers during the war. Easily it was a multimillion rupee industry. That too suddenly evaporated plunging entire families and communities in Tamil Nadu back to poverty.

Real reason behind their sudden interest in the sea stretch is based on these developments.

Modern day invasion of Sri Lanka that went underreported

Historically the nation withstood foreign invasions mostly from South India. However, a modern day invasion took place just a few weeks ago when unruly Tamil Nadu invaders, instigated by Tamil racist expansionist craze invaded Lanka. Rowdy mobs landed in the Kachchatheevu island and tried to hoist Indian and Tamil flags. They timed it to coincide with IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Independence Day. Thankfully the Sri Lankan Navy intervened and apprehended the culprits.

Situated between Delft and Mannar islets, Kachchateevu is an important landmark that marks the boundary of Sri Lanka. It is also important for fishing. With increased awareness of possible oil resources in the region, South Indian elements have got into a state of madness. If they succeed in making their invasion permanent, it will have huge economic and defence ramifications for the island nation.

Exploiting racism on either side of the sea to rob the island

Tamil Nadu politicians have hatched a shrewd plan to snatch the islet from Lanka. They are riding on rampant Tamil racism on both sides of the Polk Strait. A huge cry was made over non-existent war crimes and Tamil grievances blaming Sri Lanka of not honouring equal rights to Tamils. It had wide support in Tamil Nadu and among Tamil race centred political parties of Sri Lanka. Over 65% of Tamils in the north are unshakable voters of Tamil race centred politics. However, on the other hand, they are the beneficiaries of the fisheries resource in the northern seas.

Sadly they value Tamil racist politics more than development, economic prosperity and ethnic integration. Knowing this very well, Tamil Nadu politicians fooled them with pretended concern for fake war crimes and fake Tamil aspirations. While northern Tamils were fooled by these racist demands, Tamil Nadu politicians moved into the snatch Kachchatheevu.

Strangely no Tamil organised protests were seen against this attempt despite the fact that Tamils in the north would be the biggest and only economic losers if Tamil Nadu snatches the islet! They were and still are mesmerized by Tamil Nadu race politics against Sri Lanka.

Tamils in the north must stand up and tell Tamil Nadu pretenders if they truly love Tamils in Sri Lanka, they should not rob their fishing resources and land. However, no one came forward to say so. Ultimately the Defence Secretary challenged Tamil Nadu pretenders and invaders to show some respect for the economic resources and land primarily used by Sri Lankan Tamils.

This should teach local Tamils who their true friends are and who are trying to use them as pawns for external agendas. If Tamil Nadu had its way, northern Tamils would be unable to fish in waters they traditionally fished.

Meanwhile relatives and friends of three Tamil Tiger terrorists in custody over Rajiv assassination pressured the Tamil Nadu government to save the trio from death penalty. Tamil Nadu politicians are tactfully avoiding these demands.

Silent support by the Indian government?

What were Indian government agencies including the coastguard doing until hundreds of South Indian intruders invaded a neighbouring nation or when thousands intrude into a neighbouring country everyday? Absolutely nothing. Omission on their part raises some valid questions about how genuine India wants to safeguard Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s security at the very least when threats to Lankan security come from Indian sections.

Unfortunately the Indian government response is similar to its conduct during war time. During the war, repeated calls to India to patrol the Palk Strait and stop illegal activities by Indians fell on deaf ears. Sri Lanka had to manage it all by itself. North-western coast was a prominent weapons and cadres transit point. Shallow sea made it difficult for Dvora FACs and other attack crafts to manoeuvre. Navy lost a few valuable boats trying to handle the threat posed by Indian poachers. A number of radar facilities were attacked and equipments were stolen by Tigers.

Only after the complete clearance of the entire north-western coast by the army did clandestine LTTE activities in the Palk Strait stopped. Clearly India didnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t extend its support to our attempts to rid Tamil Tigers in this area. Relying further on Indian promises to safeguard the Palk Strait is unwise.

India has gone back on all its promises while Sri Lanka faithfully adhered to its share of responsibility. The 1974 Kachchatheevu agreement was part of a wide understanding with India under which Sri Lanka granted citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Indian Tamils (as they were called then).

The solution

It is naƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚¯ve to think that avoidance and ignorance is a solution. Actually it is part of the problem costing the nation dearly. When all this plunder of the marine fisheries resource happens, malnutrition is steadily climbing in Sri Lanka. Lankans should be ashamed to record very alarming levels of protein deficiency when their nation is surrounded by the sea!

Resolution of this problem is threefold – deterring illegal Indian poachers, utilizing the marine fisheries resource to the maximum and defeating the Tamil expansionist agenda of both Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka. Creating new multiethnic fishing communities in the north equipped with mechanized fishing boats and trawlers is the crux of the solution. They should be provided with security by the Sri Lanka navy when under threat from illegal poachers. Adequate fishing in Sri Lankan waters by own fishermen would not leave economically profitable quantities of fish to illegal Indian fishermen given the risk of hostility. Sri Lankan waters are easily accessible from Sri Lanka than from India. Ethnicity of Sri Lankan fishermen making use of this resource also matters. Main reason for this problem to escalate to this level is due to Tamil fishermen on both sides cooperating on the plunder. Marine fisheries resource belongs to all Sri Lankans irrespective of race but not to Tamil Nadu poachers. Aggressive fishing practices must be adopted by local fishing trawlers within Sri Lankan waters. It is also a good idea to set up a fishing unit attached to security forces or sponsored by the government. It can fulfill the demand for fish of over 200,000 men on duty thus reducing recurrent defence expenditure.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Simply put it: use it or lose it.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Only such a solution is sustainable as it can create flourishing multiethnic communities in the north which is essential to protect and appropriately utilize the fisheries resource in the north. People will come forward to defend their livelihoods and national interests without being fooled by Tamil racism which is unfortunately sweet lollypops for most Tamil voters in northern Sri Lanka.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is a solution that serves both economic and defence interests while distributing the peace dividend across people of all ethnicities. In relation to the problem of managing own fisheries resources, will Sri Lankans be users or losers?ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

7 Responses to “Tamil Nadu Illegal Fishermen in Lankan Waters Could be Poaching 95,000MT Fish Valued Over US$750 Million Annually”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Even France and Spain like countries fish in sri lankan seas. Because, Sri Lanka does not have a deep sea fleet and fishermen fish only in the shallow seas.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Buddhist Economics have kept the high seas around Lanka free from over fishing & high levels of pollution. For how long will this be maintained ? Already our soil & water in the NCP are polluted as shown by presence of heavy metal poisoning in the water there resulting in about a million people with kidney disease. Note that there was no kidney disease or heavy metal poisoning in the water prior to some 30 yr ltte rule in the surrounds of the NCP.
    Where are our Laws to govern the high seas and our water ways & soil ? At least, Lanka should be able to lease out fishing areas in the surrounding seas to interested parties. Once foreign sources get used to free fishing in Lanka’s waters, it will become a nasty habit.

  3. Jayantha Says:

    Sri Lanka as an island has a most valuable natural resource in the fish stocks in the surrounding seas. Has anyone ever evaluated the fish stcks, the movement of fish and the trend in seasonal fishing in the waters surrounding Sri Lanka.

    I am afraid not. Without evaluating the fish stocks no one can understand the over fishing limits and how much to fish per year so the sustainable yield is not disturbed. This may sound conplicated, but it is not. In simple terms this means, once we start harvesting the fish in the sea, the fish stocks tend to dwindle. If too mush fish is removed from the seas the fish stocks, over the years will be completely wiped out. If only what is termed as “the sustainable yeild is fished” fish will keep producing more baby fish which will make up for the fish that was caught. But to have a constant amount of fish for consumption, the small baby fish must be allowed to grow big, the eggs and the various food stuff avaialble for the small baby fishes must not be disturbed.

    Use of aggressive bottom trawling as well as the use of small net mesh sizes will destroy both these valuable parameters that maintain a continuous supply of fish. Hence these factors must be controlled. Every country in the world controls, the minimum net mesh sizes, the power of the engines and the size of trawlers, the number of fishing licences issued per year or per season. Also continuous studies and assessment of the fish stocks as well as monitors on board fishing vessels to inspect what is being caught and also if rules are followed must be carried out to effectively enforce the laws of fishing. The FAO of the UN together with the civil adminstration authorities of the governements fisheries department carry out this most important task in many countries.

    When I was in West Africa, East Africa and Lebanon there were very large purse seiners, long line fishing vessels – some as big as 4000 tons, that specialize in surface fishing (some of them fish as much as 150 to 450 tons of tuna, skip jack and moko mackeral in one day) owned and operated by Lebanese and crewed by africans and south indian tamils fishing in Sri Lanka’s east and south east waters near the 120 to 190 mile limit (well within the 200 miles zone that belong to Sri Lanka’s territorial waters) year after year during the tuna season. This fish would then be pumped by very large fish pumps to canning mother vessels at high seas for processing and shipped for human consumption via a well organised network of ports that have very large cold storage facilities and reefer carriers (special refrigerated fish carrying ships) to the larger fish consuming nations. The ships would go to Las Palmas and Canary Islands in North West Africa for repairs, restock with fishing gear and for supplies before going to the West African tuna fishing grounds for the remaining 6 months of the year.

    Sri Lanka is overfished by these and tamilnadu fishermen every day of the year.

    There is no war now and the Defence Secretary wants to keep the forces at full strength. Hence our navy could be deployed all the time to keep these vultures away.

    Jay Pathbey – USA

  4. Jayantha Says:

    As usual a ery revealing article written by Kumar Moses. Thank you Kumar.

  5. gamunu6 Says:

    Dear Kuma Moses! This is a very valuable ananlyis. As you say we in Canada, protested when sSanish trawlers, mined the seas in th East Coast, and left Canada with mere pea nuts. Many other foreign companies / countries, with the blessings of their respective govts. came and continued to fish even today not to that extenet as before.

    Thanks to then Minister from New Foundland & labrador who stood firm and resolved the issue. We in Sri lanka needs someone like him to punish & take those countries, fishermen who over fish, without any regards to depleting stocks. Because of their highly mechanized boats, they feel it is their right to explore the goodwill of india & sri lanka. For a slightest thing Tamil Nadu govt. threatens New Delhi, that they will pull out from Indian govt. coalition.

    They Tamil Nadu went as far as saying that they will WIPE Sri Lanka, out of the map. Is this the way India trying to appease their UNRULY state, at the expense of Sri Lanka. When we distroyed poachers mostly Indians from tamil nadu, India asked us NOT to distroy them..Do they want us to give them shelter, and award them for their ruthless approach to fishing even in Sri lankan waters.

    It is time to call their bluff and take stern action. If we can defeat highly organized tamil LTTE, Tamil Nadu poachers would not stand a chance against our armed forces. Only we need is to stand up & fight for our natural resources, if we give in this will continue to happen and fatten the ingnorant, stupid Tamil Nadu fisherman.

    Thanks very much for your valuable contribution. As Jyantha (another reader) responded it seems only you have the courage & conviction to even write & inform others of the gravity of the situation & insurmountable loss to Sri lanka.

    Thanks again.. Gamunu Alahakkone. P. Eng Canada, C.Eng UK, Retired Engineer- Canada.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    USA robbing Libyan oil complaining human rights/democracy BS.
    Tamil Nadu robbing our fish telling genocide BS.

    Same story.

    And US state secretary visits Tamil Nadu!

    A grand world wide cowboy mafia in operation. Even a penny of a weak poor nation will be robbed.

    What is Ban Ki Moon and his UN doing?

  7. Marco Says:

    Fish worth $750m annually in Sri Lankan waters?

    I need to buy a bigger trawler!

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