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Fisheries dispute in the Palk Bay

Published: 13th May, 2024

Context

Talks between fishing communities of Tamil Nadu and the Northern Province in Sri Lanka are being considered to address the fisheries dispute in the Palk Bay.

Root Cause of the Conflict:

1. Disagreements over Kachchatheevu:

  • A key issue is the disagreement over Kachchatheevu, an islet in the Palk Strait (north of Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula).
  • Ownership history: Initially owned by the Raja of Ramnad, it later became part of the Madras Presidency during British rule.
  • Transfer to Sri Lanka: In 1974, India ceded Kachchatheevu to Sri Lanka under a bilateral agreement
  • The International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) was born out of a bilateral agreement signed back in 1974 and 1976 under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

2. Poaching by Indian Fishers through Bottom Trawling:

  • The main cause of conflict is bottom trawling, a fishing method banned in Sri Lanka.
  • Bottom trawling involves scouring sea beds, causing damage to the marine ecosystem.
  • Indian fishers cross into Sri Lankan waters due to depleted catch on the Indian side.
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