Aquaculture gaining increasing importance in fisheries today
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development
Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne said aquaculture is a thrust area of
fisheries development in the Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dekma programme.
The minister was addressing the Aquatic Resources Development of Asian
Regional Ministerial Meeting of Aquaculture held on July 28, 2011 in
Colombo. Ministers and senior officials from nearly 20 countries in the
Asia-Pacific region participated in this conference which discussed the
future development plans of the Aquaculture Industry in Sri Lanka and
cooperation among countries in the Asian region.
The full text of the minister’s speech:
‘At the outset, I wish to convey my deep appreciation to President
Mahinda Rajapaksa for gracing this inaugural session, and kindly
agreeing to deliver the keynote address, officiating the opening of the
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
Development Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne
“I am very happy to note the presence of a large number of ministers
and senior officials from nearly 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region
with us and wish to extend them a warm welcome. This clearly shows the
importance the countries in the region attach to this meeting, and to
develop their aquaculture sectors. I am pleased to learn that this is
the first time FAO is holding a Ministerial Meeting in aquaculture of
such wide participation in Asia. In fact, in March this year, the 15th
session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) too was held in
Colombo, with the participation of over 250 delegates from over 35
“We are heartened by the rapidly growing popularity of Sri Lanka as a
venue for major international events, including fisheries events. This
augurs well with our government’s plan to make Sri Lanka the ‘Wonder of
Aquaculture or fish farming, is a term which is gaining increasing
importance in fisheries today. This, I believe, is primarily due to the
increasing demand for fish, which marine capture fisheries alone cannot
satisfy, due to resource limitations. For millennia, man made
reservoirs, irrigational canals and riverine waters served as the
principal source of freshwater fish for we Sri Lankans.
“Aquaculture is of more recent origin. Aquaculture development
programmes, initiated by the government in the late 70s and early 80s,
had a profound impact in increasing aquaculture production in the
However, lack of a clear, consistent policy on aquaculture
development, especially the stocking programmes, saw our aquaculture
production dwindling in the late 80s. However, the last five years have
seen growing emphasis in aquaculture in the country.
Aquaculture is a thrust area of fisheries development in the ‘Mahinda
Chinthana Idiri Dekma,’ and has formed the cornerstone of my ministry’s
fisheries development programme.
“We are targeting an aquaculture production of 95,000 metric tons by
2013, almost twice the production when I took over the ministry little
over an year ago.
National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA), which was set up
by the President in 1998, as the then Fisheries Minister, will play a
major role in this regard. Our aim is to increase the total production
of fish to 686,000 metric tons, thereby increasing our per capita daily
intake of fish to a healthy 60 grammes by 2013.
Loss of income and livelihood
We have relatively large areas of underutilized freshwater and
brackish water bodies, especially in the North and the East, where
aquaculture production couldn’t be promoted due to decades of terrorism.
Under the leadership of our President, and his vision ‘Mahinda Chinthana
Idiri Dakma’, the entire country is making steady progress, trying to
rise as one nation, putting aside petty differences.
You can witness it yourself if you travel to remote areas of the
country, especially the North and the East, which accounts for more than
half of the country’s coast line and dotted with inland water bodies.
These were key areas of fish production in the 70s. However, the drop
in production due to terrorism resulted in much loss of income and
livelihood to the people in these areas.
Our government is now doing all what it can, to re-develop these
areas through improved infrastructure and re-establishing the
agricultural and fisheries sectors to its former glory, or even to a
We have now embarked on an accelerated stocking programme, which will
see most of the water bodies in these areas soon becoming active fishing
grounds, and areas of aquaculture production, under the ‘Uthuru
Vasanthaya’ programme of the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ Vision document.
When you consider the achievements in aquaculture of some of the
countries in the region, I am confident our aquaculture production
targets are achievable. I am aware that from humble beginnings, some of
the nations here have reached aquaculture production levels as high as
300 metric tons per hectare, for species such as Pangasius catfish, a
commendable achievement indeed. This shows our nations are second to
none when it comes to aquaculture production technology and product
marketing, with several posting annual exports worth billions of
dollars. I wish to confess that in comparison, ours is a more humble
On the other hand, in the 'Globalized world' of today, we have many
challenges and hurdles to overcome. We are living in an era of
uncertainties. In spite of technological developments in food
production, gone are the days of unchallenged food security. According
to Lester Brown, the founder of 'Earth Policy Institute', the silent
mover of global politics has become food. When some scientists predicted
possibility of future 'food wars' or 'water wars', and catastrophic
environmental changes, nobody took their statements seriously. But these
have become a reality in a relatively short time. Thus, aquaculture
production, which is closely entwined with the aquatic environment, may
experience tough times, if we do not take on-board environmental
Safety of the aquaculture environment too is of paramount importance.
Water is said to be a 'universal solvent', and thus, aquaculture
environment is prone for contamination from agricultural runoffs, which
may end up in our food fish. However, we strongly believe that the key
to long-term success in aquaculture is the use of appropriate
technology, not necessarily advanced technology per se, and sustainable,
environment-friendly production practices, which bring in long-term,
sustainable socio-economic benefits to the fish farmer. It is in this
respect, this Ministerial Meeting will be of much importance to us, as
most of the countries participating have achieved these goals to a
varying extent. Undoubtedly, we have a lot to learn from them. This
meeting undoubtedly offers ample opportunities for us to learn and
discuss, not only technical aspects, but also policy dimensions of
aquaculture development, with a close look at food security, nutrition
and economic development of the populations at large."