New Delhi [India], Jan. 3 : Immediate release of the fishermen presently in custody has been announced following the ministerial level talks between Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India Radha Mohan Singh and Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka Mahinda Amaraweera in Colombo.
The talks were held on Monday following the first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries held in New Delhi on December 31.
During the discussion, the ministers exchanged views on possible mechanisms to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issues, said a joint press statement.
The statement added, "Both sides agreed to a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to expedite the release and handing over of fishermen in each other's custody on completion of respective legal and procedural formalities.
The immediate release of the fishermen presently in custody was announced following the ministerial level talks." As part of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreed to by both sides, it was decided to intensify cooperation on patrolling and to institute periodic interaction between the Coast Guard of the two countries.
Both sides also discussed the issue of releasing fishing vessels in each other's custody. The Indian side requested for the immediate release of Indian fishing vessels, which Colombo agreed to consider.
The Sri Lankan side reiterated that the practice of bottom trawling needs to end at the earliest. The Indian side assured that bottom trawling would be phased out in a graded time-bound manner within a practicable time frame.
Colombo was also briefed about the measures already instituted including the decision to construct a new fishing harbour at Mookaiyur in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.
The next JWG meeting will be held in Colombo in April this year to review the progress made in addressing the fishermen issues in a comprehensive manner.