Recent skirmishes between Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen could escalate into a bigger showdown on the high seas if the issue of trespassing was not resolved, minister for traditional industries and small enterprise development said on Wednesday.
Douglas Devananda, an influential Tamil leader from Jaffna, said repeated incursions by Indian fishermen into Lankan waters had affected the livelihood of their counterparts from Jaffna and other coastal regions.
"Both (fishing) communities should talk. Government representatives are supposed to meet in New Delhi March 28 to discuss the issue but the Lankan fishermen (representatives) have not been informed about anything," Devananda told Indian reporters on Wednesday.
Since January, there's been a sudden increase in Indian fishermen allegedly crossing into Lankan waters to fish.
In January, two trespassing Indian fishermen were allegedly killed by the Sri Lankan navy.
A month later nearly 150 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were rounded up by their Lankan counterparts and then handed over to the police.
The primary complaint of the Lankan fishermen is that the Indians use twin nets and process of bottom trawling while fishing; bottom trawling helps in increasing the catch but destroys the sea bed in the process and adversely impacts fishing in the long term.
"Our fishermen had been assured that the issue would be resolved within a month (since the middle of February). But nothing has moved. They are angry," Devananda said.
Fishermen from Northern Lanka met officials at the High Commission of India on Wednesday to voice their apprehensions.
For India, the murder of two Tamil Nadu fishermen remains an important unresolved issue. The navy denied involvement but India have emphatically maintained that violence against and harassment of Indian fishermen will not help.
The question therefore remains as to how both communities will carry on with eking out their livelihoods in peace and safety.