Feature Article

Imperiled livelihood

[TamilNet, Thursday, 07 December 2006, 02:46 GMT]
Jaffna's 'fisheries belt' which accounted for 37 percent of the island’s total catch two decades ago, today lies inside the Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA's) largest high security zone in the northeast. The peninsula's sea coasts, including the southern coastal waters of Jaffna lagoon, except Jaffna Islets, remain off-limits for fishing under a Sri Lanka Military enforced ban. In this scenario, the Sunday announcement by SLA that fishing ban in Vadamarachchy North is relaxed for fishing within 50 meters from the shore, is unlikely to lend succor to the fisher families struggling in dire poverty without a means of livelihood.

Fishing in Jaffna
[Photo: TamilNet Library]
Fishing ban has been active in Vadamarachchy shores for the last six months. Fishermen were ordered to remove their fishing crafts from the shores and hand over the out board motors to the nearest Sri Lankan Army or Navy camp.

The fishing ban was relaxed several weeks ago and the fishermen were allowed to fish within 50 meters from the shore. But the ban was reinstated in middle of November following fighting between Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) and the Sea Tigers.

A natural bund of coral reefs is found approximately 50 meters away from the shores of Vadamarachchy stretching from Supparmadam to Athikovil in Valvettithurai. Within the bund, the water is shallow and neck deep in most areas. The fish stock is extremely sparse in this section of the sea, and is hardly adequate to feed the families of fishermen, fisheries union officials said.

Fishing in Jaffna
Fishing in Jaffna
[Photo: TamilNet Library]
Vadamarachchy sea is considered to have abundance of fish and the fishermen of the area led a busy, productive life before the fishing ban. Fishing ban has brought economic ruin to Jaffna fisher families who now depend on relief assistance to meet the daily needs, civil sources said.

With fishing ban active in the northern coast of Jaffna lagoon, in Araly, Paashaiyoor, Ariyalai East, Navanthurai, Columbuthurai and Gurunagar areas, only the fish brought from Jaffna islets is distributed across the Jaffna district, the fisheries society sources said.

The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) soldiers manning islet checkpoints allow only a limited amount of fish to leave the islet shores forcing the price of fish to skyrocket in the mainland peninsula. Fish is sold at Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 a kilo, nearly ten times the normal market value, residents in Jaffna said.

The Military command in Palaly announced late October that restrictions of fishing would be relaxed and the fishing will be allowed within 2 km from the shore, following a meeting held between the multi religious dignitaries under the leadership of Jaffna Bishop and civil officials. However, SLA did not implement the new agreement, Fisheries Society sources complained.

Fisheries union officals say the Government of Sri Lanka is only responding to pressure from the international community and humanitarian organizations, in its insincere attempt to relax the ban on fishing.

In late November, the SLA announced that 25 fishermen would be allowed to fish everyday in the shallow waters of the sea around Jaffna and in Kakkaithivu area within 1 km from the shores. However, the fishermen of the area dismissed the offer inadequate and demanded that at least 250 fishermen should be allowed to fish everyday for the proposal to work among 1500 members of their community.

Statistics of fisher families disclosed in a report released by the Jaffna branch of Fisheries commission indicate: 73,209 members from 16,799 fisher families make up 12% of the total population of Jaffna district.

Of this 7,375 individuals from 773 families in Thalayadi and 1152 families in Aaliyavalai, live in Liberation Tigers controlled areas in Vadamaradchy east. The remainder, 65,834 individuals from 14,774 fisher families live in Sri Lanka Government controlled areas of Jaffna district.


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11.09.06   SLA fills fishing jetties with stones in Vadamaradchi
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