Sri Lanka detains 29 Indian fishermen as fishing row continues

COLOMBO, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's navy detained 29 Indian fishermen on Thursday as tension continues to brew between the two countries over poaching, an official said.

The 29 fishermen and seven boats were noticed by the navy while on routine patrol and they had been escorted to the northern part of Sri Lanka and handed over to the police, Navy Spokesman Kosala Warankulasooriya told reporters.

"The fishermen were engaged in fishing in Sri Lanka's territorial waters using methods that are banned by local law," he added.

The arrests come as fishermen in Sri Lanka's Northern Province have issued a deadline to local and Indian fishermen for stopping using illegal fishing methods in the island's territorial waters.

The Jaffna Fishermen's Federation has issued a warning to Indian and local fishermen, asking them to stop using fishing methods that are prohibited in the Northern waters from Feb. 15.

President of the Federation, A. Emiliyampillai, was quoted by local media as saying that the decision was taken in order to preserve the marine diversity in the Northern waters from the area surrounding Chundikulai in the North-Eastern part of the Jaffna peninsula up to the Delft Island.He explained that bottom trawlers and other types of fishing gear like purse seine nets have been prohibited to safeguard the marine resources in the waters.

He added that Indian trawlers remained a big challenge to the Northern fishermen since they violate whatever decisions that had been taken to prevent the infiltration of Indian boats into Sri Lankan waters.

Sri Lanka and India have long-standing issues over fishermen from both countries illegally crossing over to the other's maritime waters and poaching.

Just last month the two sides exchanged over 400 fishermen detained by each other after high-level talks to resolve illegal fishing.

Sri Lankan fishermen have alleged that illegal fishing methods are destroying the seabed in the Palk Strait that is shared by local and Indian fishermen.

The Indian government during the January talks agreed to assist in phasing out illegal fishing practices.