At least 21 Indian fishermen have been arrested for allegedly poaching in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, the island nation’s Navy has said, taking the total number this year to 195. The Indian fishermen were arrested and their four trawlers were seized on Wednesday in the northeastern waters off Mannar and Kovilan. The Navy said in 2023 they had arrested 195 Indian fishermen for poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

The fishermen issue is a contentious one in the ties between India and Sri Lanka, with Lankan Navy personnel even firing at Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait and seizing their boats in several alleged incidents of illegally entering Sri Lankan territorial waters. 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 arrested by Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line and fishing in Sri Lankan waters.