Trinco fishing ban drives thousands to destitution

[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 January 2002, 11:16 GMT]
(News Feature) More than five thousand fishermen of Kinniya, China Bay and Mutur in the Trincomalee district have been deprived of their livelihood due to the ban imposed currently by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) on fishing in the Koddiyar Bay and in the waters off the eastern port town, fisheries officials said Thursday. Fishing is banned by the SLN in the waters off the coast from Mutur to Kinniya China Bay and the Trincomalee town. Inland fishing in the district is prohibited after dusk.

"None of these fishermen have been granted relief of any sort by the government so far although the SLN ban deprived them of their livelihood many years ago. They lead a miserable life in abject poverty. We have brought the matter to the notice of the Trincomalee Government Agent but there has been no response so far from the Department of Social Services or the Ministry of Fisheries," a fisheries official said.

The Sri Lanka Navy permits fishing in the Back Bay Sea which lies between the eastern port town and the Foul Point only between 7 in the morning and 6 in the evening. The SLN has also stipulated that fishermen have to stay within five km from shore and fish only between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the waters from Nilaveli to Manayaveli, a coastal suburb of the Trincomalee town, according to a senior official at the Divisional Fisheries Office.

"The SLN attributes the ban and restrictions to the security of the Trincomalee harbour. This is not acceptable because the Navy can easily work out modalities and procedures with the fishing communities and the fisheries department for the purpose. And furthermore there is a ceasefire now between the LTTE and the government," said Mr. C. N Yogarajah, a community leader in a fishing village near Trincomalee town.

Many Trincomalee fishermen, including Sinhalese, have been killed and a large number injured in attacks by the SLN. More lost their boats and fishing gear in these incidents.

"The number of Tamil and Muslim fishermen in China Bay and Kinniya is in the tune of 2,500. Around 3000 fishermen live in Mutur," Fisheries Department officials said.

Stake net fishing (‘Kadduvalai’) in the shallow waters by the Trincomalee town was completely banned until 5 January this year. Stake net fishermen are now permitted to wade for two hours in the morning-from 7 am to 9 a.m.

Deep-sea fishing is allowed beyond five km from the shore. Those engaged in deep-sea fishing should also leave the shore after 7 a.m. and return before 6 p.m. although they can stay out at sea for several days. More than ninety percent of the fishermen who go to the deep sea in ‘multi-day boats’ are Sinhalese.

Inland fishing is permitted during the daytime in the reservoirs of Kantalai, Vendarasankulam, and Pankulam (Morawewa) and the lagoons of between the coast and hinterland in the northern parts of the district. Four Tamil youth who went around 6.30 p.m. to catch prawns in the lagoon near Gopalapuram, north of the eastern port town were killed by the SLN on 22 November 2000.

There are 7829 fishing families comprising 35,945 persons in the in Trincomalee district. But only 12,443 fishermen are active currently because of the restrictions and ban by the Sri Lanka Navy. There are 116 fishing villages and 68 fishing boats’ landing centres along the district’s long coastline.

Several fishing hamlets on the northern part of the district were destroyed systematically by the SLA since the 1984 and fisherfolk in these parts were driven out as refugees to Mullaithivu, Jaffna and India. Large traditional Tamil fishing villages such as Salli remained semi derelict for many years since 1990 while the Navy clamped a strict ban on all fishing there.

There are 7 fishing divisions in the district.

Marine Fish production--- 1995 to 1999
1995 9130 metric tonnes
1996 10,450 m.t
1997 8800 m.t.
1998 12,850 m.t.
1999 14,770 m.t.

Inland fish production was 3,881 metric tonnes in 1999.

The fishing fleet in the fishing fleet comprises:
Non-mechanized traditional craft--- 1,191
Mechanized traditional craft - 28
Day boats with Outboard motors- 1,204
Day boats 28-32 feet ----160
Multi-day boats over 34 feet ----- 59

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