Fishing community between: The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea | Daily News

Fishing community between: The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

  • Improper management of resources
  • Bridging technological gap
  •  Political changes
  • Geo political issues

Sri Lankan fishermen continue to face daunting challenges due to bridging the technological gap, improper management of resources, socio - economic issues, political changes and geo political issues that contribute to their livelihood.

State Minister of Fisheries Dilip Wedaarachchi speaking to the Daily News expressed his concern over the increasing contribution of oceanic resources to economic growth, while ensuring their sustainability. He said that although there were regulations in place in handling unsustainable activities related to oceanic resources, they were not properly implemented.

He said that coordination among institutions involved in the management of ocean resources, was vital as there was no comprehensive data base on oceanic resources in Sri Lanka, which is important for effective policy formulation.

Q: What is the “Blue Economy” concept that had been introduced by the Ministry?

A. Sri Lanka being an island nation, need to consider as to how the country could optimize the sea as a great resource for economic development. It would help the country in fisheries, tourism and commerce to gain more foreign exchange. I have identified ways in which Sri Lanka could make the best use of the oceanic resources through tourism, fisheries, sea transportation, petroleum/gas and other resources. The Blue Economy programme is all about utilizing oceanic resources for the betterment of the country as well as its people.

Q: What are the challenges in the management of fisheries resources?

A. Both developed and developing countries are presently facing many challenges in the management of fisheries resources. Currently, we are in the process of improving the fishing industry and we were also able to lift the European Ban on Fishing, confirming our adherence to the expected standards.

I have greater concern for the need to introduce laws and methods to prevent illegal fishing where the world's fish resource is at a risk of extinction. Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has assigned me to conduct a review on fishing methods adopted in developed countries. I have decided to directly engage myself in fisheries communities in this task along with NARA and other governmental institutions. Only 52 licenses have been issued and only two boats could be used on one license but the problem is that five to six boats are being used on one license. We are having discussions with the relevant stake holders to combat such issues.

Q: What are the measures taken to encourage the younger generation to get into fishing?

A. I have taken measures to direct youth for fisheries employment in Korea, after having them trained in fisheries technical colleges proposed to be established in Tangalle and Jaffna, which would be operated under the sponsorship of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of Korea.

At present, ornamental fish exports is only at six percent and the government is trying to increase it to 10 percent. I noted that International participation received had been very low. The annual income incurred in ornamental fish exportation has been nearly US$ 3 million and accordingly, I think that by developing this industry, new job opportunities would be created.

Q: Could you explain about the use of new technology in the fisheries sector?

A. Measures have also been taken to use high technological equipment and also improve the prevailing techniques and I think multi day fishing vessels would also be needed to be upgraded. New equipment with high technology which would ensure the safety of fishermen need to be introduced for multiday fishing vessels. Therefore, winches, life rafts, EPIRB, fish finders and fish sonars need to be introduced to multiday fishing vessels along with telephone facilities and also the introduction of the VMS system for smaller vessels have been identified as the most important aspects to be implemented at the earliest.

Q: What are the initiatives that have been taken to ensure the security of fishermen?

A. Many accidents have been reported at deep sea in multiday fishing vessels. The use of life jackets would not suffice not help as it was difficult to fish wearing life jackets. Therefore, measures are being taken to include life rafts (emergency rafts) to all multiday fishing vessels in Sri Lanka.

There is no need of technical knowledge to operate it and the fishermen could easily operate it. These rafts contain medical facilities and food. It could convey accident signals by the help of parachutes spread in the sky and it could also seek help from nearby vessels in any emergency.

Q: Could you explain about the concept of Multi-purpose fishery harbor complex mentioned in the Blue Economy programme?

A. Several discussions have been held with Korea's Fishery Federation to obtain sponsorship for the programme of delivering larger scale vessels to fishing Unions. The local business community would be encouraged to purchase these large vessels. Many projects proposed by the Ministry were under the “Blue economy programme.” Uddapuwa, Chalei, Delft and Madagal fisheries habours would be developed with the support of the Government of Korea. These harbours would include mooring facilities for large vessels, yachts and small merchant ships and the launching for sea planes, restaurants, small hotel complexes, housing and community centers.

Q: Fishermen in the North and East face a severe problem due to lack of cold stores, while they had to sell their harvest at a low price?

A. As part of the Blue Economy programme, “locker cold rooms” would be introduced which would permit 20 - 30 fishers to preserve their catch for a longer period and sell them at a higher price. This would be implemented parallel to President Maithripala Sirisena’s vision of food security. The National Planning Unit has already submitted it and feasibility reports were being handled by the Anchorage Development Project.

Q: When development takes place, it is a common allegation that the community or the people are always ignored. What are the initiatives undertaken by your ministry to improve the livelihood of the fishermen?

A. Management of all these projects had to be done with the participation of the fisher community and a community based management method had been introduced to anchorage and locker cold rooms management.

Experience gained from fisheries communities would be directly utilized for the development of fisheries. Neglecting the experience of fishermen over environmental factors in establishment of habours, had made some of them unsuccessful.

Q: Have all these initiatives been planned in par with environmental and marine resources conservation?

A. Certainly yes. There is no doubt about it. Safeguarding the environment and marine resources, are our prime concern.

I have planned to establish a national marine force in line with the Blue Economy concept. It would cover all fishing unions, schools, institutes, beach hotels and religious places of 14 coastal districts. Several plans have been ready to be carried out at Delf Island, while our prime concern was the environment. We will make use of the energy available there such as waves, solar and wind.

Q: How would this national Marine Force help the fishery community?

A. The benefits that the fishery community was to gain through this project would be increased if all institutes associated with coastal areas, extend their support to this national mission. I have also planned to launch a network under this national marine force for necessary measures to be taken in providing technical, labour and equipment support during natural disasters.

The ministry also intends to design a network to provide information regarding marine pollution, human trafficking, illegal fishing, use of illegal fishing gear and transportation of illegal drugs. I hope through these initiatives, the ministry would be able to curb all current issues related to the fishing industry.

Q: It was reported in the Media that measures are being taken to privatise fisheries co-operations. What is your opinion regarding it?

A. I am well aware that there are many problems associated with the fisheries corporation.

To succeed in all such measures initiated by the ministry, the support and coordination of all stake holders relevant to the fishing industry is important. I believe that I could over come the issues at the fisheries co-operations in par with these initiatives if I am given the responsibility of handling it.

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