I’m here in one of the weirdest pieces
of land I’ve ever been flying my drone over the Indian Ocean. There’s a battle
going on out here. It’s not a battle for land or for people. This is a battle
about fish. One fishermen was killed and five others injured after Sri Lankan
Navy opened fire near an island off the Tamil Nadu coast. On one side you have
Sri Lankan fishermen in these coastal villages, where fishing is the economic
lifeblood. And on the other side you have their counterparts Indian fishermen in
these villages along the southeastern coast of India. On a clear day you can see across this strait, it’s only 20 kilometers or so.
And out here on the water there’s an invisible line that marks where India’s
territorial waters end and where Sri Lanka’s begin. Underneath this border
there’s treasure — not gold, but seafood. The communities on either side of this
strait used to be friends, but now they’re locked in conflict. One side has
bigger, faster boats. The other side has a well-armed Navy equipped with war boats
that they’re using to patrol this border. This is the fish war between India and Sri Lanka. This is Rama’s bridge. You look across, you
can see Sri Lanka. One legend goes that the Hindu god Rama hired an army of
monkey men to build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka, so that he could go in and
rescue his wife from a demon king. Geology suggests that there indeed may
have been a walkable land bridge here, until a few thousand years ago when it
was eroded back into the sea, erasing any land border between modern-day India and
Sri Lanka. The only border that exists now between India and Sri Lanka is in
the water. It was decided on in the ’70s and it looks like this. This border made
it officially illegal for fishermen from either side to cross over into each
other’s waters to fish and it was the start of what would eventually turn into
a violent conflict. “The injured fishermen have been admitted to a hospital in
Rameswaram.” In the 1960s India, was facing a financial crisis and in
response, the government was looking for new ways to stimulate the economy. So
they turned to seafood exports like prawns. The Indian government gave
subsidies to fishermen to buy new boats so that they could harvest a huge number
of prawns, which would feed demand all over the world. So Indian fishermen in
this town of Rameswaram cashed in on the opportunity, dramatically ramping up
their fishing activities with these new boat is called trawlers which are able
to drop nets with heavy weights on them to rake the bottom of the seabed in
search for prawns and other seafood. It’s an incredibly effective method for
harvesting fish and shrimp, but these heavy metal weights rip up the seabed,
damaging the sea floor’s ecosystem and this method if uncontrolled depletes
fish supplies very quickly. The Indian fishermen quickly adopted these new
boats and soon there were thousands of these trawlers. Armed with their new boats and tied to
international demand, the Indian fishermen aggressively fished these
waters, tearing up the seafloor and depleting much of their fisheries. By the
late 1970s, the Indian fishermen needed new waters to fish. This water border had
recently been agreed upon by the two countries, but even still the Indian
fishermen began moving across it illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
The massive amount of fishing contributed to an explosion in seafood
exports from India. While India was cashing in on seafood products from Sri
Lankan waters, Sri Lanka was descending into war. By the early 1980s, armed rebels
were taking over large swaths of land in the north of the country, trying to
create a new country for the oppressed Tamil people, the ethnic minority group
that the residents of these fishing villages identify with. “And every day
they take an oath pledging to sacrifice their mind body and soul for Tamil Eelam,
a separate state for a separate people.” It descended into a violent, long-lasting
civil war that would result in over 150,000 deaths and
these fishing villages in Sri Lanka were caught right in the middle of it. As a security precaution during the war
the Sri Lankan Navy started setting up security zones in much of the water,
banning most fishing activities and prohibiting boats with motors. “Beaches once crammed with foreign tourists are now patrolled by the
watchful military.” All of this was done in an attempt to weaken the Tamil rebels,
but the result was a severe gutting of the economies here, which are totally
reliant on fish. The catch in these districts declined immensely during the
war and not only did this affect the economies, but this fishing ban left Sri
Lankan waters open for Indian trawlers to fish freely. The violent civil war
and the fishing ban in Sri Lanka dragged on through the ’90s and into the early
2000’s, allowing the Indian fishermen to illegally fish these waters with little
repercussion. But then everything changed. “Tamil Tiger fighters retreat from their
last stand. For now the fighting seems to be over.”
The war ended and the security zones in the water were lifted. Sri Lankans could
fish freely again, breathing new life into an economy that runs on fish. But as
these fishermen went out on their boats what they found were fleets of Indian
trawlers in their waters, tearing up the sea floor, illegally digging for seafood
treasure. And these Sri Lankan fishermen coming out of a fishing ban and a 25 year
civil war, had much smaller weaker boats. They could never compete. This is where things really start to heat up. Sri Lankan Navy, which had previously been
fighting a war, now turned its efforts towards cracking down on Indian
fishermen that were poaching in Sri Lankan waters. The fish wars had begun. “Naval Command arrested four Indian fishing poachers in Sri Lanka territorial waters.” “There are mass protests against the killing of this fisherman.” The Sri Lankan Navy came down hard, routinely arresting Indian fishermen and detaining
them, sometimes for years. Many of the fishermen that I talked to while I was
in India routinely go poaching across the border and many of them said that
they had been caught by the Navy. When the Navy detains the fishermen, they
also take their boats. They eventually released the fishermen, but the boats
remain impounded in navy bases around the country. Across the strait, this
poaching by Indian fishermen has had deep ramifications in these villages. Experts estimate that the direct
monetary loss to Sri Lankan fishermen due to Indian poaching is anywhere from
16 to 56 million US dollars per year. This conflict over seafood has turned two
Tamil communities, once allies, into enemies. The Indian government has done little to
resolve this conflict. They occasionally step in to free a group of detained
fishermen, but none of their actions have led to a concrete solution to the
conflict. The Indian government, both national and
local, seems to be turning a blind eye to these fishermen’s practice of crossing
the border. That’s because these communities are already neglected and
underserved by their faraway government. Stopping a practice that has bolstered
their economy for years would create more disdain and frustration among the
people. So not much is likely to change anytime
soon and as the Navy and the fishermen continue to spar in these waters, the
real losers in this situation continue to be these communities over here. The people here were barred from fishing during the
decades-long civil war and now they have no chance of competing with their Indian
neighbors, who have spent decades destroying their sea beds and stealing
their fish. This was one of the most interesting places I had ever been, going to Sri Lanka and the southern coast of India. Got to see these really interesting places, but also seeing how important fish are to these economies. But India and Sri Lanka aren’t the only places that are affected by the increasing demand for fish. There are a lot of different places around the world who are dealing with similar issues. And if you want to learn more about this issue and how it plays out in other countries, you should check out a documentary series called “Super Fish” from CuriosityStream. CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming service that allows you to browse a huge repository of documentaries and nonfiction films from some of the world’s best filmmakers. You can get unlimited access to CuriosityStream starting at $2.99 a month, but because you’re a Borders fan, you can go to curiositystream.com/borders and enter the promo code “borders” and you’ll get the first 31 days for free. CuriosityStream does not influence our editorial process or the videos we make, but they do support us and they do make videos like this possible, so thank you CuriosityStream. And stay tuned for more Borders.

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100 thoughts on “India and Sri Lanka’s violent fight over fish”

  1. Hey everyone, I hope you liked this third episode of Borders India. Two more to go! BTW the idea for this video came from the locals in India. I asked for story ideas and many of you told me to look into this issue. So thank you to everyone who suggested it! I would have never stumbled upon this otherwise.
    Also, If you want to help me make Vox Borders bigger and better, check out the Video Lab: http://bit.ly/vox-video-membership
    See you next week!

  2. As an Indian and Tamilian, I sympathize what my fishermen have done to the ecosystem and the livelihoods of Sri Lanka's people. Since both our countries have a common goal and business, I suggest a plan where both of the parties and work together peaceful manner.
    With fish farming and pisciculture methods we can adopt more sustainable form of fishing which it will be jointly taken care by both countries.

  3. Ok as a Sri Lankan I believe this is India's fault entirely but gives us no right to fire on innocent people

  4. It's kinda sad how as soon as people get a little bit ahead of their peers they become completely selfish. You think they'd have empathy because they used to be poor too and still are compared to the rest, but instead they're afraid of losing what little they have so they step on thoser who are even poorer – Everyone's got mouths to feed after all. And it's the same everywhere else in the world only few are so rich that they have no worries at all. You can't blame ppl too much on an individual level but the large scale effects are counterproductive and terrible.

  5. Hey i have been on your channel from last two days your videos are quite helpful it is full of info and it increases my analysis. Could you kindly look into the durand line border bw Afghanistan and pak ?

  6. Sorry to see that no mention has been made of about over 180 Indian fishermen who have been shot at point blank or beheaded for poaching by the Srilankan Navy

  7. I was checking some srilankans comments here, showing off like like winning some big wars. Kids listen this, Shooting at the fisher men is the only bravest thing srilankan navy can do, Remember if Indian Navy started their aggression, srilankan navy can be disappeared in few minutes. Your country is a lucky to have a neighbor like India, if there was any other country srilanka would be a just another state like Andaman nikobar.

  8. You shouldn't blame Indian government u should be blaming tamilnadu government who was very busy with its own politics!

  9. Thank you for this valuable piece of information the information given in this video are true and I really like the way of presentation keep it up all the best and do a video about Israel

  10. I don't understand India has the Indian Ocean then why are our fishermen fish in srilankan territorial waters. Swedish ships fish in indian ocean why can't we.

  11. boards are decided by both governments from both countries citizens should know that borders are invisible walls that you should not cross unless you have the permission of a passport and legal documents to pass it is also fair for you guys (Indians) to capture and keep Sri Lankan boats that cross the border to Indian waters as they are illegal

  12. One of the reasons Indian Government was backing up Tamils in Sri Lanka providing them weapons and military advises to fight and do bombings in Sri Lankan cities encouraging them to have a Tamil country but Sri Lankans played it brilliantly and came out as winners bringing peace.

  13. I'm from a South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.. and I'm deeply saddened by the situation of these fishermen, especially the Sri Lankans.. Complete responsibility of this situation is on Tamil Nadu government.. They need to take immediate action to improve the condition of its fishermen and make sure they don't unfairly and illegally fish in Sri Lankan waters.. also put some regulation in Indian waters about the fishing methods which can cause damage to the underwater eco system.. I live in South India and I have no clue about this unfortunate situation.. This issue needs more attention and awareness for a faster resolution.. Thank you Johnny..

  14. @Johnny Harris: Video was good but you forgot to mention very important points which lead the conflict this violent.

    "Things changed, war ended" : It wasn't a natural miracle, India send its troops to help them fight rebels (the outcome of the war was disastrous).

    "Civil War" wasn't really civilians war, as always Brits funded the rebels with some ill motives behind it.

    Overall good video.

  15. Cool…and where did the jungle people procure funds to purchase the weaponry and amunition etc etc to sustain such a long war? 🤔

  16. Same here Indian fishermen crossing their sea border line and getting into bangladesh to catch our national fish HILSHA (which is prohibited to catch during off season for our fishermen)

  17. I as an Indian feel very sorry for what we are doing… Sri Lanka has been one of the best neighbours… I feel bad for our south Indian people's activities

  18. The answer is simple, the Indian fishermen should stop fishing in Shri lanka territory. I don’t understand why they won’t stop.

  19. This author has missed to inform about the katcha theevu which is called as kutch island which was part of India till 1970's and as per international rules 21 nautical miles from the shore is considered as the border and after that is the international waters and everyone has rights to move freely in that. Indian fisherman's were fishing in the waters which was belong to India once but after 1970 it was given to srilanka by the Congress govt under indra gandhi's rule. And now we are restricted to catch fish for very few kms as kutch island belongs to SL now and they have rights for 21 nautical miles from the shore of the island. Ppl commenting here just believing whatever they say in the video. Nobody wants to do research or collect data from different source and analyse. Simply coming to a conclusion by a foreigners video. Great Indians.

  20. Maybe what they can do is temporary ban fishing on the Indian waters so tht the eco system can recover and then once thts ok they can go fishing in their own waters but in a less damaging way ..during the ban the government should help the fishermen with financial and stuff

  21. Very sorry to see the sri Lankan counters of tamilians who are affected. I wish it could resolve soon by our fishermen taking the first step forward

  22. I don't think Indian government is concerned about this coz they think it's Tamilian Indian vs Tamilian Sri Lankan. And don't talk about respecting territory, it's a joke nowadays!

  23. I am from Tamil nadu and I did not know the Sri lankan side of the story before watching this video , Media here does not portray the truth , they just Need the TRP rating , its a Shame , I wish our government does something to resolve this issue and make the lives of those people better.

  24. Seriously sri lanka even have a navy😂😂😂…..
    Ohk and they are messing with India…
    Someone tell them it will take INDIA JUst 2hours to arrest whole sri lanka

  25. Both the countries politicians are uneducated and unskilled of doing anything no one's caring about the ecosystem of waters

  26. Not fully true… Have you heard of Kachatheevu ? India cedded that island which itself is not legal since it is not ratified by Parliament yet… So those area are traditional fishing grounds for rameswaram fishermen… Which was illegally given to other side by Congress people for personal gain… They are the one to be blamed for…

  27. I think it's the habits that indian fishermen developed during srilankan war time, when few srilankan fishermen used to fish. But hey u need to give up those habits. I'm and indian and i love srilanka..we have very good relationship as well as good cultural ties. And i think this issue resolved pretty much since the modi govt in india. I have seen this new govt working closely with srilankan govt..
    Hope all goes well and everything back to normal.

  28. This guy has been all over the place. I wonder if he's ever been caught up in tense situations. If he has he should make a video about it

  29. Katchatheevu hub belonged to India which was a part of Tamil Nadu state. It was donated to Sri Lanka it's every fishermen of india to fish in that border.. it so lame to throw up blame on Indian fishermen. And how do you draw line in the middle of the see. How dare they shoot a man .. is it that easy to take a life.. thousands of men have been killed.. this is bizarre

  30. These Indian fisherman and inconsiderate of their own land's well being using technology that renders their water useless and then go into other's territories to do the same. As an Indian, I agree with Sri lanka here

  31. There is one important aspect to bear in mind while dealing with this issue,which unfortunately wasn't addressed during the course of this otherwise well made video. That is- most Indian fishermen don't realise that they have crossed into Sri Lankan waters! I mean, it's water you're talking about,you can't possibly draw boundaries on water,and even if you do they cannot be physically distinguishable by sight,as is the case with land boundaries. Also,given the fact that they had been fishing in these waters, unopposed,albeit illegally for several decades during the Sri Lankan civil war,it could possibly have given rise to the perception that these waters were in fact legal fishing grounds,and belonged to India. Picture this: A fisherman's father who had fished in the waters during the war unopposed,and found it to be rich in several species of fish,is very much likely to have told his son that this particular area is rich in fish,and therefore an ideal place to fish in. The poor son, following his father's advise would have proceeded to fish in these waters, unaware of the fact that it was a crime to do so! Another factor to look at is the ruthlessness of the Sri Lankan Navy in dealing with such fishermen-many are often shot at sight,never to be heard of again..The only way the conflict can be resolved is to put up large signboards in the local language, somewhere in the middle of the ocean,near the maritime border.

  32. india should make a law not to pass the borders because sri lanka fishersman need food and the indians have destroyed it if india not stop it sri lanka would start war

  33. This programme do not tell the truth. All these high powered trawlers belongs to Tamilnadu politicians. These fishemens are simply bait a modernday slavery by Tamilnadu politicians.

  34. Is bosdike ko ek hi kaam he… Indian subcontinent par negative video banana, positive to ye bna nhi skte. Sath hi yaha viewers Jada h na islie. Ye konse country ka h. Sala waha ka video bnaya b to koi dekhega nhi.

  35. India funded tamil tiger rebels.. but after India planed attack on sirilankan cricket team on the soil of Pakistan. ..
    Pakistan and Sri Lanka jointly conducted operation and defeated tamil rebel. …especially Pakistan Navy blocked Indian sea support. …

  36. there are rules – if you break them you have to be punished for it. so the indian or sri lankan who are crossing the border – its their fault

  37. I grew up the Indian side of this coast, srilankan coast is close to us than New Delhi or Bangalore or Mumbai. We have thousands of years old relationships across the coasts. Our ancestors go between on catamaran. I have cousins on both sides. If no colonial rule in this part of this world this issue would have never occurred. Although it sounds like issue between two countries, the fishermen on both sides come from same roots but that they have been divided by the lines of post world war nationalisms. These boundaries never existed a century ago.

  38. It is not about fish it is more than that it has very deep history related to civil war in Sri Lanka it also consists of attacks against Tamilians due to Sri Lanka war with Tamils in Srilanka it is more than fish,it is not the Sri Lanka Fisherman that fights with Indian Fishermen it's the Sri Lanka navy that takes away kills Tamil Fishermans the boats are costly to buy so we the navy holds the boat it completely shatteres the Fishermans life

  39. Sea is equal for all human beings.we can divide land. Water can not be divid. We can see only direction in sea.who can see border line inside water..srilankans please build a wall inside your sea if you can…

  40. Why Indian government not doing something for this fisherman government should do something so poor people not get into trouble but these government busy in Hindu Muslim

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