New Delhi, Mar 27 (PTI) India has demanded that fishermen and fishing boats currently in the custody of Sri Lanka should be released at the earliest.
The issue was taken up at the Fifth Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries, which was held virtually on March, according to an official statement.
Both the countries will continue to cooperate and engage in dialogue to solve the fishermen-related issues.
The Indian delegation was led by Jatindra Nath Swain, Secretary, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, an official statement said on Sunday.
The other members of the Indian delegation included senior representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Tamil Nadu, Government of Puducherry, Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard.
The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Ms R.M.I. Rathnayake, Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries, Government of Sri Lanka.
"The Joint Working Group discussed all relevant issues in detail including the concerns relating to fishermen and fishing boats which have been on the agenda of bilateral discussions between India and Sri Lanka for many years," the statement said.
Swain observed that the India is always committed to work constructively with Sri Lanka towards resolution of issues related to fishermen and their livelihoods in a humanitarian manner.
"He also took up the issue of early release of Indian fishermen and boats currently in Sri Lankan custody," the statement said.
India expressed its readiness to work together with Sri Lanka for joint research to enhance the productivity of Palk Bay fisheries.
Both sides also discussed cooperation between Navy and Coast Guard of both countries in patrolling as well as existing hotline between the coast guards.
The related operational matters including cooperation in tracking poaching, prevention of environmental damage due to bottom trawling, addressing grievances of fishermen on either side was discussed.
The issues relating to investigation on recent deaths of fishermen and status of apprehended fishermen and fishing boats too figured in the meeting.
Indian government highlighted the initiatives taken by the Central and State Governments to diversify livelihood options and reduce fishing pressure in the Palk Bay.
It also informed that infrastructure has been created to facilitate deep-sea fishing and promotion of alternative livelihood through seaweed cultivation, mariculture and several aquaculture activities.
The Sri Lanka Government proposed a faster transition to sustainable fishing in the Palk Bay fisheries. It suggested that India can help them develop the aquaculture sector and the associated infrastructure in Northern Sri Lanka.
"The meeting concluded on a positive note, with commitment towards continued cooperation and dialogue to solve the fishermen related issues and to hold the next meeting of the Joint Working Group as per schedule," the statement said. PTI MJH