Fisheries bodies to present industry predicament soon | Sunday Observer

Fisheries bodies to present industry predicament soon

25 April, 2021

A meeting comprising all fisheries association heads and representatives to raise concerns and present the state into which the fisheries industry has fallen into will be held shortly, All Ceylon Fisheries Association President Aruna Roshantha told the Sunday Observer Business during a media visit to view the state of the Negombo lagoon last week.

He said there is no use in funding artificial prawn farming when the entire freshwater fisheries industry is in jeopardy.

“People of this country have consumed freshwater fish which is far more nutritious than the prawns from farms. Measures should be taken to develop the local fisheries industry looking into the plight of the fisherfolk who have fallen from the frying pan to the fire,” Roshantha said. Local fisheries associations have been irked by moves to grant a licence to Indian fishermen to enter Lankan waters which will give them the green light to carry out bottom-trawling.

“At this rate the local fisheries industry will die  a natural death very soon as fishermen have lost hope which is the worst thing that could happen to someone,” Fernando said.

Heads of Fisheries Associations have been insisting that there should be a proper national plan to develop the industry.

“How could there be a proper plan when people who are clueless about fishing are manning the desk and holding key positions in the Government. There has to be people with practical knowledge of the industry to steer it. If they lack expertise they should see the support of those who are knowledgeable,” Fernando said. The need to protect marine life and the ecology was stressed during the visit which was an eye-opener to the environmental destruction to the Negombo lagoon which has been a ground for discharging factory sewage and other effluents.

Lagoons and all freshwater resources should be protected first before farming,” Fernando said, adding that  at the rate marine resources are being exploited and destroyed within the country and outside and the absence of a consistent national policy to protect the industry fisher-folk will have to bid farewell to fishing soon, according to fisheries associations. The National Fisheries Association convening a media briefing recently called on the authorities to launch speedy action  to put a halt to foreign vessels encroaching on our waters and exploiting resources.

The Association said it was aware of moves by Sri Lanka to enter into a program with Indian authorities to allow Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters.

The association noted that encroaching Lankan waters by foreign vessels has been a practice for centuries but the use of sea-bed destroying technology and exploiting our resources is alarming.

Bottom trawling, which was made an offence through the amendment of the Aquatic Resources Act in 2014, causes severe destruction to the ocean floor resulting in the depletion of aquatic resources.

A maximum prison term of two years and a  maximum fine  of Rs. 50,000 was imposed on bottom trawling. However, what agitates the fisheries community is banning bottom-trawling by local fishermen while giving the green light to foreign vessels to exploit the country’s marine resources. The fisheries sector comprises over 300,000 direct and over one million indirect beneficiaries contributing around 1.5 percent to the GDP.