‘Increasing fish production to meet nat. food requirements’
Text of the speech by Fisheries and Aquatic
Resources Development Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne at the 26th Session
of INFOFISH Governing Council
I am pleased to learn that INFOFISH has a very active presence in the
fisheries scenario in the Asia-Pacific, and has grown from strength to
strength over the years, from its inception almost three decades ago, as
a project of Food and Agriculture Organization. I understand that
INFOFISH has 14 member countries at present.
Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne
Few months after I took office as Minister of Fisheries, I had the
opportunity to participate in a key INFOFISH event, TUNA 2010 Bangkok,
which enjoyed the participation of over 60 countries. More recently I
officiated an INFOFISH event as part of an FAO Regional Projection
'On-board handling and processing of Tuna' in my own electorate,
Beruwala, which I understand, was a great success.
Tuna accounts for a large share of our seafood exports, close to US $
200 million in value. The industry has shown significant growth, and
now, Sri Lanka has become the main fresh tuna loin supplier to the EU. I
understand that our technical experts are very much involved in the FAO
Tuna project, sharing their knowledge and experience with other INFOFISH
member countries. I am sure other member countries too benefit from the
wide range of projects and programmes undertaken by INFOFISH in the
region. I have no doubt that in this regard, guidance of the Food and
Agriculture Organization plays a valuable role.
Marine and aquaculture sectors
Fisheries is important to us Sri Lankans, as fish accounts for nearly
70 percent of our animal protein intake, and also provides livelihood to
nearly half a million. Sri Lanka has a tradition of seafaring from time
immemorial. Thus, it is logical for us to depend on the vast ocean areas
around us, to cater for the growing animal protein requirement of our
population. This is why my ministry has laid emphasis on increased fish
production from both marine and aquaculture sectors. To achieve this, we
have embarked on an accelerated programme, in line with the 'Mahinda
Chinthana Idiri Dekma', the vision document of the President.
However, mindful of the importance of managing our resources to
ensure sustainability, we have taken several measures to curtail and
eliminate destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling, light
fishing, use of small mesh nets, explosives etc. We have also taken
strong measures to eliminate IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported)
fishing. Over the last two years we have strengthened our involvement in
the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) process. In fact, on my
invitation, IOTC held its 15th Commission Meeting and ninth Compliance
Committee in Sri Lanka last March, with the participation of nearly 250
delegates from over 32 countries, which according to IOTC was the best
attended and best organized OITC session in its history.
Another area of focus in our development plan is aquaculture.
Considering the new technological developments elsewhere, I must confess
that we are a long way to catch up with many South East Asian nations.
Vietnamese Fisheries Minister who visited my Ministry recently while
discussing developments in aquaculture sector in Vietnam pointed out
that cat fish yields in Vietnam have risen to over 500 metric
tons/hectare, thanks to the application of modern technology and culture
practices. I am sure many INFOFISH Member countries have achieved
somewhat similar progress.
I am pleased to note that Sri Lanka is also a beneficiary of an
on-going Common Fund for Commodities and FAO assisted INFOFISH project
on developing Fresh Water Aquaculture.
In fact, regional cooperation in aquaculture was also highlighted at
the Asian Regional Ministerial Meeting on Aquaculture for Food Security,
Nutrition and Economic Development held in Colombo, July this year. Over
70 Fisheries Ministers and key fishery policy-makers from 18 countries
in the Asia-Pacific region participated in the event.
Guidance and direction
The Ministerial Meeting came up with a strategy document titled
'Colombo Declaration'. Which will provide guidance and direction for
aquaculture development in the Asia-Pacific. In our effort in fisheries
development, we pay much attention and emphasis to regional cooperation.
We have already worked out MoUs with many countries in Asia and beyond,
for technology transfer and investment. In this respect, I feel INFOFISH
can play a major role in facilitating regional cooperation, and hope
this Council Meeting will catalyse the process of developing an action
programme to address fisheries issues and challenges faced by its Member
I wish to take this opportunity to compliment Sri Lanka Export
Development Board for efficient liaison and coordination of INFOFISH
activities in Sri Lanka. I am pleased to learn that INFOFISH was
actively involved in the design stage of our new Wholesale Market, which
I understand, you will be visiting during your field programme.
In conclusion, I wish the 26th INFOFISH Governing Council sessions
all the success and the foreign delegates a pleasant, enjoyable stay in