Fighting For Fish

The tangled battle to rein in Tamil Nadu trawlers in the Palk Strait

01 November 2016
ny thousands of fishing vessels work the narrow expanse of water that separates India and Sri Lanka, putting the area’s marine resources under immense strain.
GETTY IMAGES
ny thousands of fishing vessels work the narrow expanse of water that separates India and Sri Lanka, putting the area’s marine resources under immense strain.
GETTY IMAGES

EARLY IN DECEMBER LAST YEAR, Kadiramalai Loganathan’s father succumbed to a long illness. The funeral exacted a heavy price, and to recoup it the fisherman had little choice but to quickly return to sea. On the night of 16 December, barely a week after his loss, Loganathan set out, with one other fisherman, from Karainagar, a small island off the Jaffna peninsula in north Sri Lanka, in his small fibre-glass boat with a modest engine.

Just a few kilometres out, as he waited after casting his net, Loganathan spotted a big, mechanised boat—a trawler. “Before I knew it, the boat started pulling away my net,” he told me. He chased after the trawler as fast as he could to try and save the net, his biggest investment. He had borrowed 2 lakh Sri Lankan rupees to buy it—about 90,000 Indian rupees or $1,350—and had hardly started repaying the loan. But his boat was no match for the larger vessel.

“I shined the lights up to signal them to stop,” Loganathan said. The men on the trawler shouted back in Tamil, “Annachi”—elder brother—“don’t show any lights. The navy will get us.” Loganathan recognised their Tamil dialect, different from the one spoken in north Sri Lanka, from his days as a refugee in Tamil Nadu, in India, during the Sri Lankan Civil War.

Meera Srinivasan Meera Srinivasan is the Sri Lanka correspondent of The Hindu.

Keywords: Tamil Nadu Sri Lanka ecology fishing Jaffna Marine Ecology
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