Sri Lanka defends move to build artificial reef
Posted on June 20th, 2021

Meera Srinivasan Courtesy The Hindu

It is not only the government that defended the move, but also Jaffna-based fisher cooperatives.

Days after Tamil Nadu fishermen protested Sri Lanka’s efforts to build an artificial reef off Delft island, west of Jaffna peninsula, authorities defended the move aimed at enhancing fish breeding”.

Last week, Sri Lanka’s Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, with the assistance of Navy, launched a project, dropping around 20 discarded buses into the sea off Delft, as was earlier done in other parts of the island nation, including the eastern Trincomalee district, officials said.

Many countries, including India, have in the past created artificial reefs to facilitate fish spawning. Old train carriages were used in the US, for instance,” Cabinet Minister for Fisheries Douglas Devananda, who represents Jaffna district in parliament, told The Hindu. The move was backed by research undertaken by Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), he said.

By objecting to an initiative in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, Tamil Nadu fisher leaders have only exposed themselves as parties interested in fishing illegally in the Palk Strait,” he said, referring to the long-persisting Palk Bay fisheries conflict.

Persisting problem

Scores of Tamil fishermen living in the war-affected northern and eastern districts of Sri Lanka have, for over a decade now, been protesting Tamil Nadu fishermen’s use of destructive bottom trawlers along their coast, severely impacting the marine ecosystem and their post-war livelihoods. Despite ongoing bilateral discussions and several rounds of talks between fishermen of both countries, Tamil Nadu fishermen are yet to meet northern Sri Lankan fishermen’s consistent demand that they stop bottom-trawling in their seas. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu fishermen have accused the Sri Lankan Navy of attacking and killing fishermen — allegations that the Sri Lankan side denies.

Meanwhile, members of the All Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, held a protest in Rameswaram last week, urging Sri Lanka to stop dropping iron scrap” into the sea, since would affect” marine ecology in the Palk Strait, and also damage” their own boats and nets.

In a tweet indicating Sri Lanka sees its recent initiative also as a deterrent to bottom-trawling, State Minister of Fisheries Kanchana Wijesekera said while the artificial reef would boost fish spawning, it will also act as a shield against bottom line trawling conducted illegally by the #Indian Fishermen”.

It is not only the government that defended the move, but also Jaffna-based fisher cooperatives. This initiative is aimed at helping our livelihoods by increasing fish production, and that is why we have welcomed it. We condemn certain sections of fisher leaders in Tamil Nadu opposing the move,” said Annalingam Annarasa, leader of the federation of fisher cooperative societies in Jaffna.

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