At least 86 Indian fishermen were arrested and had their boats seized by the Sri Lankan navy for allegedly violating territorial waters and poaching laws, naval officials said. 10 fishing boats were also seized by Sri Lankan authorities, according to a report by the Press Trust of India.
Sri Lankan naval personnel reportedly found and detained the Indian fishermen after reports from local fishermen that a fight had broken out between the two groups.
All India Radio reported , citing naval authorities, that 43 of the detained fishermen are being taken to the harbor of Kankesanthurai in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. The remaining 43 are being transported to the city of Trincomalee for handover to civilian authorities for prosecution.
Sri Lankan fishing groups have complained that since the country’s new government came into power, the number of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan territory has increased. Shortly after the new government, led by President Maithripala Sirisena, came into power in January, an exchange of detained fishermen took place as a gesture of goodwill between the two nations.
Earlier this week, the Indian navy had arrested 19 Sri Lankan fishermen for trespassing into Indian waters, but later released them, Xinhua reported.
Officials from the Indian High Commission reportedly said that they will take all possible efforts to ensure the fishermen are released as soon as possible.
Indian and Sri Lankan territory are separated by a stretch of only 12 miles at their nearest point, which has led to frequent territorial disputes between the two countries. A meeting on the issue, originally scheduled for March, has reportedly been delayed, Sri Lankan fisheries officials said.