Sri Lanka to release 173 boats

The Sri Lankan government has ordered the release of all the 173 trawlers confiscated by its navy since 2015 after arresting fishermen on the charge of illegal fishing in their waters.

The government order dated September 7 was received by the Fisheries Department here last week and it is set to send a salvage team comprising fishermen, mechanics and officials to the island nation to assess the condition of the trawlers.

“We have received the order and the salvage team will leave for Sri Lanka after getting clearances from the Tamil Nadu government,” Mr Johny Tom Varghese, Additional Director of Fisheries (Ramanathapuram) told The Hindu on Monday.

He would head the team comprising fishermen from Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai and two mechanics. The operation is expected to commence before the onset of north monsoon.

The island nation’s order clearly states that trawling equipment in boats would not be released.

The boats, each valued at ₹10 to ₹50 lakh, were berthed in Karai Nagar, Kankesanthurai, Trincomalee, Kalpatti and Mannar, sources said, adding most of the boats after years of neglect got submerged in water. “We will be happy if we could salvage 40 to 50% of the trawlers,” they said.

P Sesu Raja, fishermen leader, welcomed the Sri Lankan government order