The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 23 Indian fishermen and seized two trawlers for allegedly poaching in the country's territorial waters, an official statement said on Thursday.

The Navy arrested the fishermen off the coast of Vettilaikeni in the northern province's point Pedro area.

Taking into account the impact of foreign fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters on the local fishing community and the sustainability of fishery resources of Sri Lanka, the Navy is conducting regular patrols as well as operations to curb illegal fishing activities in island waters," the Navy said in a statement.

The operation also led to the seizure of fishing gear from those vessels, used for illegal fishing practise known as bottom trawling', and a stock of fish caught by the same fishing method.

In March, the Navy seized five fishing vessels and 54 Indian nationals for poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

The Navy said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seizure of foreign fishing vessels became limited and the arrestees were repatriated.

The Navy will continue to carry out regular patrols in Sri Lankan waters adhering to COVID-19 protocols, to prevent illegal fishing practices and other illegal acts by foreign fishermen, with a view to protect the fishery resources claimed by Sri Lanka and secure the livelihood of local fishermen, the release said.

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