Sri Lanka fishermen find peace leaves nets empty

TRINCOMALEE, September 2, 2010 (AFP) – Fishermen in the Sri Lankan port of Trincomalee hoped the end of the island’s civil war would bring prosperity, but dynamite and corruption now threaten their livelihoods. Trincomalee, on the northeast coast, has one of the world’s finest natural harbours and was fiercely fought over during the war until government troops finally defeated the rebel Tamil Tigers in May last year.

“The problem we have now is that although we have the freedom to go out and work, the fish are being illegally destroyed to the point where we can™t earn a living,” said captain Ananda Peiris after a dawn expedition that brought in just 30 kilogrammes (66 pounds) of tuna.

Peiris hoped his small boat would haul in good profits when restrictions on fishing were lifted after peace broke out.

But he says the end of the war has resulted in a free-for-all that leaves him with tiny catches as big operators bribe authorities and use dynamite to kill large numbers of fish, also damaging coral reefs.

“A lot of fishermen are going out but because others are doing dynamite and purse seine (circular net) fishing, we are not able to earn money,” he said.

“We’ve told the government but