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Fishermen Yes if Delhi says boats No, says Lankan fisheries Minister

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the Indian fishermen arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy on August 8 would be released if an official request was made by the Central Government of India through its High Commission in Colombo.

However, Amaraweera told Lanka media that the fishing equipment and boats of the fishermen in custody would not be released.

Sri Lanka Navy, in two separate sweeps, arrested 49 Indian fishermen along with 12 mechanised boats for poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters and engaging in illegal fishing on August 7th night and Tuesday 8th morning. The arrest of these Indian fishermen was made by a Fast Attack Craft (FAC) attached to the Northern Naval Command and Sir Lanka Coast Guard while on routine patrol.

Two of these Indian fishing trawlers were captured in the waters northwest of the Delft Island and the rest were taken into custody in the seas north of Kovilan Point. The trawlers and fishing gear are been brought to the naval base SLNS Elara at Karainagar while the fishermen were taken to SLNS Uththara in Kankesanthurai. The fishermen were handed over to the Assistant Fisheries Director in Jaffna for further legal action.

The arrests were made close on the heels of Sri Lanka repatriating 77 Indian fishermen who were released from custody as a gesture of goodwill, after detaining them for poaching in the country’s territorial waters.

Minister Amaraweera said the fishermen would not be released just because the Indian fishermen held protests. They would be released after a formal request and proper procedure would have to be followed.

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