Amendments to fisheries laws, vital to develop sector – Trade unions | Sunday Observer

Amendments to fisheries laws, vital to develop sector – Trade unions

9 August, 2020

Fisheries trade union representatives, calling for urgent amendments to the laws pertaining to the fisheries sector, expressed displeasure over the exploitation of the country’s marine resources by foreign fishing vessels, leaving crumbs for local fishermen who make a salient contribution to the economy.  

“The legislation governing the fisheries sector of the country serves the interests of foreign entities exploiting the seas within our boundaries,” All Ceylon Fisher-folk Trade Union President Aruna Roshantha Fernando said.  

The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996 was limited to Sri Lankan waters. This provided the legal basis for the management, conservation regulation and development of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Sri Lanka. This legislation was strengthened by a series of regulations framed under the same Act. Fisheries sector association representatives said that foremost there is no proper definition as to who is a fishermen and who belongs to the sector.  

“A recent Cabinet paper stated that the fisheries sector will be developed through help which will be provided to uplift the prawn farming sector. This sector is different to the fisheries sector which is a larger segment comprising marine and inland fishing,” Fernando said, adding that fishing is not something that any Tom, Dick and Harry could do.  

Fisheries trade union and association heads said discussions to develop the sector should be had with local fisherfolk and not with foreign companies which are making the maximum use of the fisheries habours across the country.  

On upgrading technology, Fernando said that technology should be improved gradually and in a way that will not harm the environment and marine life.  

The fisheries associations want fuel prices slashed or at least maintained at the current level instead of being ncreased which is not fair when global oil prices are down.  

Fisherfolk across the country have been in a precarious state during the past five months as sales dropped sharply due to the lock down depriving them of a steady income to keep the home fires burning.   Fishermen were confined to their homes as prices dropped drastically due to the sharp decline in demand by over 70 percent.  

 The lifting of the curfew and the country being brought back to normalcy has enabled resumption of fisheries activities, but the staggering cost of living including fuel prices have burdened the community.  

Associations have been harping on the need for measures to eliminate the exploitation by middlemen and those in the supply chain.  

 The fisheries sector comprises over 300,000 direct and another 200,000 indirect beneficiaries contributing around 1.5 per cent to the GDP.

Sri Lanka has exclusive fishing and economic rights for an ocean area of 500,000 square kilometres and a coastal line of 1,700 km in addition to inland water bodies, which makes fishery one of the promising industries in the country.