New Delhi, 27 March 2022: The Fifth Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries was held on 25thMarch, 2022 through virtual mode.

The Indian delegation was led by Shri JatindraNath Swain, Secretary, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying. 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 other members of the Sri Lankan delegation comprised of senior officials from the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Fisheries, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Navy, Coast Guard, Sri Lanka Police, Department of the Attorney General and National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency.

The Joint Working Group discussed allrelevant 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.

Shri JatindraNath Swain observed that the Indian side is always committed to work constructively with the Sri Lankan side 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 Indian side expressed its readinessto work together with Sri Lanka for joint research to enhance the productivity of Palk Bay fisheries.

Both sides also discussed cooperation between Navy & Coast Guard of both countries in patrolling, existing hotline between the Coast Guards and related operational matters including cooperation in tracking poaching, prevention of environmental damage due to bottom trawling, addressing grievances of fishermen on either side, besidesissues relating to investigation on recent deaths of fishermen and status of apprehended fishermen and fishing boats.

The Indian side 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 Lankan side proposed a faster transition to sustainable fishing in the Palk Bay fisheries and also suggested that India can help them develop theaquaculture sector and the associated infrastructure in Northern Sri Lanka.

The meeting concluded on a positive note, with commitment towards continued cooperation and dialogueto solve the fishermen related issues and to hold the next meeting of the Joint Working Group as per schedule.

It may be recalled that the First Meeting of the Joint Working Group(JWG) was held on 31 December 2016 in New Delhi.The Second Meeting of the JWG was held in Colombo on 7 April 2017.The Third Meeting was held in New Delhi on 13 October 2017 while the Fourth JWG met in virtual mode on 30 December, 2020.