A 1976 pact with Lanka & India's sovereign rights

Though the 1974 India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary agreement impacted fishing rights of Indians in Katchatheevu, a subsequent pact signed in 1976 bestowed sovereign rights in Wadge Bank, near Kanyakumari, for India.

The maritime boundary agreement between India and Sri Lanka for the Gulf of Mannar, the Bay of Bengal and related matters bestowing these rights to India was signed on March 23, 1976.

The Wadge Bank, located near Cape Comorin (the area of the sea south of Cape Comorin has been generally known as the Wadge Bank), is within the exclusive economic zone of India, and India shall have sovereign rights over the area and its resources, the 1976 agreement reads.

Fishing vessels from Sri Lanka and persons on board these vessels shall not engage in fishing in the Wadge Bank, the agreement said. However, at the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, and as a gesture of goodwill, India agreed Sri Lankan fishing vessels, after they were licensed by India to engage in fishing in the area for three years from the date of establishment of India’s exclusive economic zone.

It was agreed that the number of Sri Lankan fishing vessels shall not exceed six, and their fish catch in the Wadge Bank shall not exceed 2,000 tonnes, in any single year. At the expiry of this period, Sri Lanka vessels ceased to fish in the Wadge Bank. Parliament was also notified that Sri Lankan vessels ceased to fish in the Wadge Bank. In January this year, the Centre invited bids for oil and gas exploration in Wadge Bank, triggering protests by fishermen in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Harry Byrne

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