Frequent attacks by Sri Lankan naval personnel and opposition by fishermen there to plying their trade in Katchatheevu islet has forced an increasing number of fishermen from here to leave for Kerala for a stable income, the Fishermen's Association said today.
"Many fishermen have left for Kerala, fearing uncertainty in traditional fishing areas in Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar. Frequent attacks by Sri Lankan navy and opposition from fishermen there in allowing us beyond Katchatheevu has made them go to Kerala, where they will get a stable income," N J Bose and S Emerit of the Fishermen's Association said.
They said fishermen from this island, which they claimed has the maximum number of mechanised boats in Tamil Nadu, had left for work to Kerala, leaving boat owners in the lurch.
Officials said only 61 boats from this island left for sea today though permission had been granted for 667 boats.
Both Bose and Emerit said the fish wealth of Tamil Nadu was not good and they would suffer heavy losses if hundreds of boats were made to fish only in Indian waters.
They demanded implementation of the Katchatheevu agreement with Sri Lanka in letter and spirit "so that fishermen of both the countries will survive".
They said the atmosphere in the traditional fishing area was not conducive and every boat had incurred losses to the tune of Rs 5,000 per day as they were chased away by Sri Lankan naval personnel and the island nation's fishermen.
"It was a bitter experience... we did not want to waste money on diesel if we could not fish near Katchatheevu," said Albert, a boat owner.
Bose said the fish price in Tamil Nadu would skyrocket if the trend continued and suggested that both governments intervene and protect their fishing rights.
He said FA members would ensure that Indian fishermen did not resort to smuggling and would also help officials nab those indulging in anti-social activities like drug smuggling.