Updated December 18th, 2023 at 10:27 IST

Indian Coast Guard repatriates 10 TN fishermen arrested near British Indian Ocean Territory

Indian Coast Guard facilitated repatriation of around 10 Tamil Nadu fishermen detained near British Indian Ocean Territory for illegal fishing.

Reported by: Digital Desk
BIOT patrol vessel 'Grampien Endurance' | Image:Indian Coast Guard
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The Indian Coast Guard successfully executed a repatriation operation, ensuring the return of approximately 10 fishermen from Tamil Nadu who had been apprehended near the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) earlier this month, stated the Indian Coast Guard.

Detainment and legal proceedings

The fishermen, aboard the Indian Fishing Boat Ave Mariya (IND-TN-15-MM-9070), were detained by the British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT) Administration on December 6 for reportedly venturing into fishing areas approximately 230 nautical miles near BIOT's Marine Protection Area, where fishing is prohibited.

After being tried by BIOT authorities, the fishermen were levied a fine amounting to 60,000 Pounds Sterling. With the fine unpaid, their vessel was seized, and the 10 crew members were subsequently released. They were granted a grace period of 30 days, commencing from December 12, 2023, until January 11, 2024, to settle the imposed fine, according to the statement.

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 Repatriation efforts by ICG

The repatriation process was carried out in collaboration with the Indian Coast Guard vessels, namely 'Arnvesh' and 'C 427', a fast interceptor craft. The fishermen, according to reports, were received at sea from the BIOT patrol vessel 'Grampien Endurance' and safely transported to Vizhinjam. Upon their arrival around 10 am on Sunday, December 17, the crew underwent medical examinations and were interrogated by security agencies. Subsequently, they are scheduled to be handed over to the Fisheries Department for their safe passage back to Tamil Nadu.

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Geopolitical significance of BIOT

This incident highlights the complex geographical and legal nuances surrounding the British Overseas Territory of BIOT, which spans an archipelago comprising 58 islands, including a vast area of approximately 640,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean. Administered from London, BIOT stands roughly equidistant between East Africa and Indonesia, making it a crucial focal point for maritime regulations and protection measures.

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A spokesperson from the Indian Coast Guard emphasised the importance of adhering to international maritime laws while ensuring the safety and security of fishermen operating in these regions. Similar incidents have occurred previously, with approximately 35 fishermen being released in November 2023 after being arrested for fishing attempts near BIOT in September.

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Published December 18th, 2023 at 10:27 IST