Sri Lanka Sunday Times reports quoted Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera as saying that the Cabinet has approved the imposition of heavy fines on foreign vessels poaching in Sri Lankan waters.
The memorandum submitted by his Ministry was to seek approval to strengthen the existing Foreign Vessels Act under which only a maximum fine of Rs. 1.5 million could be imposed.Minister Amaraweera said that the maximum fine could go up to Rs. 250 million depending on the storage capacity and the catch of the vessel.
“This applies to fishing vessels of any country. We are not targeting any particular country. We have introduced higher fines for Sri Lankan fishermen using illegal fishing methods. This makes it clear that we don’t favour our own fishermen,” he said.
Mr. Amaraweera has repeatedly said that Sri Lanka was taking a humanitarian view on the Indian fishermen, but was against the vessel owners who decide to send their boats.
“The Minister has already instructed the Navy and the Coast Guard to arrest poachers in Sri Lanka’s waters and also to cut the nets of the trespassing fishermen. This will be a good start to reduce their presence in the sea,” he said. This week the Government said it would release 129 Indian fishermen arrested for poaching. In response, Indian authorities will release 36 Sri Lankan fishermen in their custody.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said a decision had been taken by the two countries to release all fishermen in custody. “The process has begun with the paper work. The Ministry officials are working with the Attorney General’s Department officials to speed up the process,” she said.