Developing fisheries sector
The decision taken by the Government to relax fishing
restrictions in parts of the Eastern coast would be a most
welcome news to the fishermen in the region who have had their
livelihood disrupted for long due to the security situation.
According to our main front page story yesterday Senior
Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa had given a sympathetic
hearing to the woes of the fishermen in Muttur before arranging
with the Navy to lift certain restrictions for fishermen on the
Muttur-Kinniya coastal stretch.
Several other concessions too had been granted such as the
extension of the distance for deep sea fishing from two miles to
five miles the use of motor boats below 15 horse power, the use
of madel and also an extension of time limits for fishing.
All these measures no doubt would offer considerable relief
to the fisherfolk in the region who in addition to having their
traditional livelihoods disrupted by the conflict were also
dealt a double blow in the form of the tsunami.
Not stopping at this, measures should also be taken to enable
these fishermen to market their catch and extend other
facilities enjoyed by their counterparts in the South.
The soaring fish prices in the South could to brought down to
some degree by a regular shipment of fish from the East which
while enabling the Eastern fisherman to live comfortably would
also make this most vital source of protein within the purse of
the ordinary consumer while reviving a once prosperous supply
network between the fish producing East and the South.
With the East now under the complete control of the
Government it is hoped that other barriers too would be
gradually eliminated enabling the Eastern population to emerge
from their restricted life and integrate into the mainstream. We
hope the ultimate liberation of the North from the LTTE would
lead to the easing of fishing restrictions in that region as
The May 10 Eastern Election will give an opportunity to the
Eastern population to elect their own representatives to govern
the area. They will have an intimate knowledge of the needs and
aspirations of the fishing and agricultural communities who have
been making an immense contribution to the province's economic
They will hopefully evolve more programmes that will benefit
the Eastern fisherfolk who are in a position to make a bigger
contribution to the Nation.
At a time when food prices are rising globally, the provision
of cheaper fish, a good source of proteins, to the masses must
be given priority. Fish prices vary seasonally, but more
advanced storage facilities (cold rooms) located at various
points of the country including the emerging East will enable
the consumer to get fish at reasonable prices throughout the
Similarly, Sri Lanka lacks canning facilities for fish. It is
no secret that foreign vessels poaching in Lankan waters later
can their catch, which in turn is exported to Sri Lanka itself.
Perhaps the development programmes for the East can include a
The modernisation of the fishing fleet is essential in the
country's quest to increase the fish catch. Many fishermen
affected by the tsunami did receive newer boats but there are
thousands of others who should get better boats.
The deployment of more multi-day fishing boats equipped with
sonar and radio communications will help yield a bigger catch.
More attention should be paid to the inland fishery sector,
which has seen a decline over the years. The restrictions
imposed on this sector by an earlier regime stifled it for
several years and it was very hard to revive it later. Most
inland fish are more nutritious and tasty. Inland fish can be a
healthier and cheaper option especially for those living in the
interior of the country.
Sri Lanka will soon acquire a far bigger ocean area in a
couple of years and the fisheries sector will have to rise to
the challenge. The Eastern fishing community will be in a
position to make a significant contribution in this regard.