China cultivates Tamil fishermen in northern Sri Lanka
Colombo, December 18 (newsin.asia): In a series of strategic moves to gain the support of Tamil fishermen in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, China has set up a sea cucumber hatchery and produce factory food, and fishermen gifted with fishing gear worth LKR 6 million, and food packages and face masks (totaling LKR 20 million) to 2,500 fishing families in Jaffna and Mannar.
The Chinese Embassy tweeted that during his visit to the Northern Province (December 15-17), Ambassador Qi Zhenhong took officials and journalists on a study visit to the food factory. “New Silk Road” in Mannar on Friday. The factory employs more than 100 local workers, 85% of whom are women from neighboring villages. Each month, it produces 300,000 cans of fish and provides income to thousands of fishing families in the area, according to the tweet.
On Thursday, Ambassador Qi and Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, along with dozens of members of the media, visited the Guilan Hatchery and Sea Cucumber Farm in Jaffna. The company has created thousands of jobs for local fishermen, grossed millions of US dollars and transferred technology to Sri Lanka, the tweet added.
Tamil daily Virakesari reported that while in Mannar, the Chinese ambassador went to sea with the help of the Sri Lankan navy to see the Rama Sethu or the series of shoals between Sri Lanka and India which is believed to be the small islands created by Hanuman to help Lord Rama’s army move from India to Sri Lanka in the Hindu epic Ramayana.
Clearly, China is making calculated forays into the Tamil fishing community of North Lankan, which faces many economic problems, including those created by the steady influx of bottom trawlers from Tamil Nadu to India. Bottom trawlers not only poach in Sri Lankan waters, but also wipe out other seabed resources. Repeated appeals by North Lankan fishermen to the Sri Lankan and Indian governments to prevent Indian fishermen from poaching and bottom trawling have failed.
The Indians continue to promise to prevent their fishermen from crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and bottom trawling in Sri Lankan waters, but have not been able to hold out because the fishermen constitute a powerful political electorate in Tamil Nadu. Previously, the Sri Lankan Navy would shoot, and sometimes even kill intruders, but this is no longer appealed by India to deal with innocent intruders looking for “humane” fish. The intruders are arrested and their boats impounded, but they would continue to come anyway.
The governments of India and Sri Lanka have set up a joint working group to meet periodically and discuss the issue of fisheries, but these meetings have not been productive. Efforts by Tamil Nadu and Indian governments to divert these fishermen into deep sea fishing have failed.
Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong in a fish cannery
Calls by North Lankan fishermen to Lankan Tamil politicians and successive Lankan governments to firmly address the issue with India have fallen on deaf ears. While Colombo has not paid enough attention to the issue, which only affects the Tamil minority, Lankan Tamil politicians do not want to antagonize or alienate their Tamil Nadu counterparts because the latter are supporting the larger Tamil demand. Lankan of provincial autonomy. Some recent incidents of Lankan Tamil fishermen attacking Indian intruders have failed to gain political support as such attacks could spoil fraternal relations with Tamil Nadu.
Regardless, Tamil fishermen in northern Sri Lanka have suffered heavy economic losses and are in desperate need of help from Colombo, Chennai and New Delhi to improve their condition. Jaffna-based Lankan economist Dr Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, writing in Daily News in 2019, notes that the areas around the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and Palk Strait are home to large stocks of marine resources, mainly due to the wider continental shelf here. , whose average depth is only three meters and extends to Indian waters. According to Scholtens, the average depth of this area is nine meters. The muddy bottoms of the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and Palk Strait areas provide rich grounds for high value shrimp species. The shallow seabed of these areas is also known to support important stocks of a number of unique, sedentary demersal fish.
After the end of the war in 2009, Jaffna district experienced a 34% drop in fish catches between 2012 (32,400 tonnes) and 2013 (21,380 tonnes); Fish catches in Mannar decreased by 17% between 2012 (13,450) and 2013 (11,110) and by a further 12% between 2014 (22,130) and 2015 (19,390). This could be attributed to the increase in poaching by Indian trawlers, Sarvananthan says.
He points out that bottom trawling has also “mass killed” undersized fish (known as “bycatch”) as trawlers indiscriminately shovel the bottom of the seabed. Trawlers also irreparably damage or destroy fishing nets used by fishermen in Sri Lanka, forcing fishermen to avoid fishing on days when Indian trawlers are supposed to poach in Sri Lankan waters, thus incurring a cost. opportunity for livelihoods.
In addition to the direct monetary losses suffered by the fishing communities of the Northern Province, there are the indirect losses suffered by the entire supply chain of the fishing sub-sector. Quoting Oscar Amarasinghe, Sarvananthan says that over a three-year period (2006-2008), five loss estimates ranged from $ 16 million (lowest) to $ 56 million (highest) per year. The average of these five different estimates is US $ 41 million or LKR 5,293 million per year.
Going further, Sarvananthan says that the annual direct monetary loss for each member of fishing households in the Northern Province is LKR 28,848. Indirect losses in terms of added value (processing, canning, drying, etc.), profit margins of wholesalers and retailers and losses of seafood exports due to poaching by Indian trawlers are estimated at 50% of direct losses. Consequently, the indirect losses amount to US $ 20.5 million or LKR 2,646.5 million.
To prevent China’s entry into the northern fishing industry to the detriment of Indian interests and to allow Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen to fish in the strait, India could consider a proposal made by a former senior scientist from the Madras Research Center of the Central Institute for Marine Fisheries Research of India, Dr Mohamad Kasim.
According to Dr Sarvananthan, Dr Kasim considered the construction and deployment of artificial reefs for the restoration of coastal ecosystems; improvement of biodiversity; and increasing biological resources. Artificial reefs should complement natural coral reefs as they do on the coasts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Palk Bay, Pulicat and various other places in India.
According to Dr Sarvananthan, the biodiversity of living biofouling at the bottom could be significantly increased by increasing the substrate of the seabed. He quotes Dr Shinya Otake, a marine biologist at Fukui Prefectural University in Japan, to say that some of the artificial reefs built in Japanese waters are home to 20 times the biomass of fish than natural reefs of similar size.
“A study conducted at Occidental College in Los Angeles confirmed the previous claim by revealing that the weight of fish supported by every square meter of seabed by oil and gas platforms off the California coast was 27 times greater than that supported by each square meter. seabed by natural rocky reefs, ”he adds.
These measures would improve the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities in Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka, as there would be enough fish for fishermen in both areas.
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