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The Significance of Fisheries Cooperation in Strengthening Sri Lanka-India Relations


Sri Lanka and India, two neighboring countries in South Asia, share a long coastline and abundant marine resources. The fisheries sector plays a crucial role in both nations, providing livelihoods for coastal communities and contributing to their economic growth. However, the maritime boundary between Sri Lanka and India has been a subject of contention, leading to disputes and strained relations in the past. This essay aims to explore the significance of fisheries cooperation in strengthening Sri Lanka-India relations, highlighting the mutual benefits, challenges, and potential for sustainable collaboration.

Historical Context:

The historical and cultural ties between Sri Lanka and India have influenced their fisheries cooperation. Traditional fishing practices and shared maritime traditions have created a sense of shared heritage. However, disputes over fishing rights, illegal fishing practices, and encroachments have strained relations at times. Understanding this historical context is essential to appreciate the importance of fisheries cooperation as a means to foster collaboration and goodwill between the two nations.

Economic Importance:

The fisheries sector holds immense economic significance for both Sri Lanka and India. It provides employment, income generation, and food security for thousands of coastal communities. Fisheries exports contribute significantly to foreign exchange earnings, boosting the national economies. Collaborative efforts in fisheries management and sustainable fishing practices can enhance productivity, ensure resource conservation, and contribute to the economic well-being of both nations.

Shared Marine Resources:

The waters surrounding Sri Lanka and India are rich in marine resources, including fish stocks, crustaceans, and other aquatic species. Cooperation in the exploitation and conservation of these resources is crucial to prevent overfishing, depletion, and environmental degradation. Sharing scientific research, data, and best practices can help in sustainable resource management, leading to long-term benefits for both countries.

Addressing Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing:

Illegal fishing, including poaching and the use of destructive fishing methods, has been a major concern for both Sri Lanka and India. Such activities not only threaten marine ecosystems but also strain bilateral relations. Strengthening fisheries cooperation can facilitate joint surveillance, information sharing, and coordinated patrols to combat IUU fishing effectively. Collaborative efforts in law enforcement, including the apprehension and prosecution of offenders, can help safeguard the marine resources and foster trust between the two nations.

Maritime Boundary Disputes and Conflict Resolution:

The maritime boundary between Sri Lanka and India has been a contentious issue in the past, leading to tensions and conflicts. Fisheries cooperation can serve as a platform to address these disputes and find mutually acceptable solutions. Dialogue, negotiation, and the establishment of joint mechanisms for boundary demarcation, resource sharing, and conflict resolution can contribute to stability, peace, and improved relations between the two countries.

Technical and Knowledge Exchange:

Collaboration in the fisheries sector allows for the exchange of technical expertise, research findings, and best practices. Sharing knowledge on sustainable fishing methods, aquaculture techniques, and post-harvest processing can enhance the capabilities of both Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen, leading to improved livelihoods and economic outcomes. Training programs, capacity building initiatives, and technology transfers can further strengthen this exchange, promoting mutual learning and innovation.

People-to-People Contacts and Cultural Understanding:

Fisheries cooperation provides opportunities for people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges. Joint fishing ventures, participation in fishing festivals, and cultural events can foster understanding, empathy, and friendship between Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen. These interactions build trust, promote cultural appreciation, and contribute to stronger bilateral relations beyond the realm of fisheries.

Challenges and the Way Forward:

Despite the potential benefits, fisheries cooperation between Sri Lanka and India faces several challenges. These include territorial disputes, differing legal frameworks, resource management complexities, and political sensitivities. It is essential for both countries to address these challenges through diplomatic engagement, institutional cooperation, and sustained dialogue.

To strengthen fisheries cooperation, Sri Lanka and India should establish joint mechanisms for fisheries management, surveillance, and conflict resolution. Collaborative research initiatives, data sharing, and the establishment of common standards can enhance resource conservation and sustainability. Additionally, both nations should prioritize the welfare of coastal communities, providing support for alternative livelihoods, social security measures, and skill development programs.


Fisheries cooperation holds immense significance in strengthening Sri Lanka-India relations. By promoting sustainable fishing practices, addressing boundary disputes, combating illegal fishing, and fostering cultural understanding, both countries can harness the potential of their shared marine resources. Through collaboration and mutual respect, Sri Lanka and India can build a foundation for peaceful coexistence, economic prosperity, and enhanced bilateral ties in the fisheries sector and beyond.

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