“The intensity is increasing, the level of violence is increasing, deaths are increasing,” said N. Manoharan, who has researched the conflict as director of East Asian studies at Bangalore’s Christ University. Warnings and arrests, he said, have failed to keep Indian trawlers from crossing into Sri Lankan waters — in part because their own shores are overfished. “They are so desperate for the catch, and they go and lose their lives.”

Protesters from across Sri Lanka descended on the nation’s capital in February, shouting above the street noise and pumping their fists in the air in frustration, AP reports.

The group was made up of fishermen and their supporters, and their rage was sparked by the Indian boats that regularly sail into Sri Lankan waters by the thousands, hauling away valuable sea cucumbers and prawns. Sri Lankan fishermen say they’ve lost business, and some have lost their lives in confrontations with foreign crews.

The protesters demanded more action from the government, even as Sri Lanka’s navy has used force to guard its fisheries — destroying Indian fishing gear, charging at the vessels, and in at least one violent episode, firing shots. Five Indian fishermen were reportedly killed last year in encounters with the navy, although Sri Lankan authorities deny they killed or shot at crews, and say they were not the aggressors.

“The intensity is increasing, the level of violence is increasing, deaths are increasing,” said N. Manoharan, who has researched the conflict as director of East Asian studies at Bangalore’s Christ University. Warnings and arrests, he said, have failed to keep Indian trawlers from crossing into Sri Lankan waters — in part because their own shores are overfished. “They are so desperate for the catch, and they go and lose their lives.”

This 600-mile stretch of the Indian Ocean is far from the only place where tensions over fishing run high. Elsewhere in the region, fishermen in India and Pakistan are also entangled in an ongoing boundary dispute between the two nations in the Arabian Sea. According to Indian news reports, Pakistan’s maritime authority has shot at Indian fishing boats at least twice in the past two years.

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