Sri Lankan fishermen have launched a flotilla of boats to demand that the government do more to protect the island nation’s prawn-rich northern waters from poaching by Indian fishers.
Boats flying black flags and carrying opposition legislators travelled 100km (60 miles) from the northeastern fishing town of Mullaittivu to Sri Lanka’s northernmost tip, Point Pedro, on Sunday.
“We have come in boats to protest bottom trawling by Indian fishermen,” M A Sumanthiran, a legislator for the main Tamil opposition party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), told reporters in Point Pedro.
Bottom trawling – which was banned from Sri Lankan waters in 2017 – involves dragging heavy nets across the seafloor to catch a large volume of fish, causing severe damage to the marine ecosystem.
The TNA said it was protesting Sri Lankan authorities’ failure to stop poaching by Indian fishers and protect the impoverished local fishing communities.
There was no immediate comment from the government.
A reporter from the capital Colombo said the fishing community has been complaining for years.
“At the root of it is livelihood. It’s about Sri Lankan fishermen struggling to make ends meet, and what they say is mass-scale poaching by Indian fishing boats that come into Sri Lankan waters and take valuable fish stocks away with them,” reporter added.
“Protesters are asking the government to implement more strongly the laws passed in 2017 and ensure that all offenders are held accountable.”