Commanding Officer H.H. More, Coast Guard Station Mandapam, in the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu, has blamed fishermen for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and getting caught by the Sri Lankan Navy for poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

Reacting to the arrest of 40 fishermen from Karaikal and Nagapattinam on December 3 and their release after seven days of detention, Mr. More, talking to The Hindu on Thursday, said the Indian fishermen take a calculated risk and get caught in the bargain.
Long pending problem

Describing it as a ‘long pending problem,’ he said the fishermen not only cross the IMBL, while setting out for fishing, but reach very close to the Lankan coast.

“We will not keep quiet if Lankan fishermen or fishermen from Pakistan crossed the line and fish near our coast, he said.

In the case of 40 fishermen, he said they were fishing near the Bolder point, ‘very close’ to the east coast of Sri Lanka, when they were arrested by the Lankan Navy on December 3.

The Indian fishermen, sometimes, move close to two km away from the Lankan coast, he said.

The fishermen go out for fishing and they do not indulge in smuggling acts, but when hundreds of fishermen set out for fishing and get close to the Lankan coast, the possibility of some of them indulging in smuggling activities, could not be ruled out, he said.

The fishermen, who were equipped with GPS, know fully well their location of fishing, but they were wilfully crossing the border, taking a risk. When the Coast guard vessel, stop them at the IMBL, they take a deviation to get into the Lankan waters. “After crossing the IMBL, they even used to wave at us as we cannot chase at them across the IMBL, Mr. More said.
Awareness campaign

Pointing out that from Rameswaram, the IMBL lay about 16 nautical miles and from the Sri Lankan side, 14 nautical miles from the Point Calimere, he said for a lasting solution, a massive awareness campaign has to be launched among the fishing community to change their mindset, he suggested.

On charges levelled by the fishermen that the Indian Navy and Coast Guard do not come to their rescue when they were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy, he said “I can’t help when they are in other’s territory. I can protect them only if they are in my territory, he said.
Distress Alert Equipment

The fishermen have been distributed Distress Alert Equipment, free of cost by the Coast Guard, but they seldom take the devise, when they set out for fishing, he complained.

The fishermen have to be educated that the use of bottom trawling would wipe out the entire marine resources and it would pose a threat to their livelihood in the future.

“There is so much of technology available now, but they should go hand in hand with the awareness campaign as the issue concerned the livelihood of the fishing community, Mr. More said.

Meanwhile, a release from the Coast Guard said the Commander, addressing the 40 fishermen after refreshments, advised them not to cross the IMBL for the sake of their own safety and welfare and also not to indulge in any kind of illegal activities.

2012, The Hindu