Tough line

Published: Friday 31 October 2003

-- By passing the Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (Amendment) Bill, the Sri Lankan parliament has made illegal the use of explosives to catch fish. Speaking at a parliamentary debate, the country's minister of fisheries and ocean resources, Mahinda Wijesekera, pressed for amending the Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Act, 1996, which, while putting emphasis on sustainable development of fisheries, did not disallow the use of explosives in fishing. The possession as well as use of such explosives is now a punishable offence. It could attract a Rs 50,000 fine, a five-year prison sentence or both. Those found guilty for the second time may end up paying Rs 100,000 or receive a jail term.

Even though the amendment bill obtained broad-based support from parliament, Wijesekera has often been accused of favouring Indian fisherfolk, who, allegedly, continue to violate Sri Lanka's territorial waters, while restrictions are imposed on local fishing communities.

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