Capabilities of the Fisheries Industry in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is endowed with an enormous stock of fishing resources - almost incalculable - thanks to its territorial waters covering an expanse of 21,500sq. km., the UN-Mandated Exclusive Economic Zone of 517 000sq.km., 260 000ha of freshwater bodies, 158 000ha of lagoons & estuaries, 71 000ha of mangrove zones, mudflats & salt marshes, and the growing aquaculture industry of the country. Sri Lanka’s total marine fish catch amounted to 415,490Mt (242,580Mt of coastal fish catch and 172,910Mt of Offshore and Deep-Sea fish catch). The inland and aquaculture fish production in 2019 was 90,340Mt. The total export volume of seafood and fishery products was 28,771Mt which brought in US$81.3 million in foreign exchange earnings.
Providing direct and indirect employment to some 2.4 million people
The fisheries sector plays a pivotal role in Sri Lanka's social and economic life. It’s a major industry with its own culture, tradition and vernacular and provides livelihood to a massive population who live along the littoral from all sides. Some 2.4 million people are directly and indirectly employed in this sector. The major stakeholders are fishermen, breeders, processors, logistics, cold chain, packing and other service suppliers. There are more than 75 medium and large-scale companies engaged in exporting seafood with 32 companies operating EU Approved processing plants.
The Availability of the Superior Industry Infrastructure
According to the Industry Capability Report prepared and published by EDB in December 2019, there are 26,600 fishing boats in the sector including:
- 15 022 small traditional craft (48% motorized) used in the lagoons and coastal areas
- 8334 fibreglass speedboats with kerosene outboard motors (18-24 ft and 25-40hp motors)
- 1550 (21-24 ft.) day boats and 1700 larger multi-day boats (32-52 ft), some of which venture as far afield.
Apart from these, the industry possesses notable infrastructural strength in the following:
- Availability of 32 EU Approved Processing Plants
- Cold chain facilities
- Well-equipped harbour facilities
- Well-developed roads and highways to transport fish from harbour to processing plants and then to the airport (shorter supply chain) within a short period
- Use of eBusiness facilities
- 1600 deep-sea fishing fleets
A variety of vessels with different sizes and capabilities are used by the local fishers for coastal, deep-sea, and inland fishing.
- Multiday boats
- Single-day boats
- One-Day Fibre Reinforced Plastic (OFRP) boats
- Oru / Outriggers / Oars
- Wallam / Theppam
- Leisure Boats / Ferries
- Paddle Boats
- Passenger boats
- Ferries/ Theppam/ Piers
All high sea boats now comply with the legal and international standards such as active VMS units on all 1,600 high seas registered Sri Lankan fishing vessels, international call signs, proper gear markings, legal fishing gears, logbooks & other requirements mentioned in the high sea operation regulations.
The speciality of Sri Lankan Seafood
Sri Lanka is ranked amongst the first 50 countries in the world exports with a total share of 0.2% in the world export market. Sri Lankan seafood such as Tuna, Prawn, and Crab is known for its unique taste and texture, which may owe largely to the unique climatic conditions and the peculiar ecosystem of the Sri Lankan waters. Due to this, buyers, who're accustomed to their unique flavours of Sri Lankan seafood, may prefer to keep sourcing seafood from Sri Lanka to maintain the consistency of the taste, which is an essential condition to be met in the production of premium seafood products. Also, important, Sri Lanka, being an island, can catch fish all year round, so the overall production, except for select products like lobsters, remains consistent throughout the year.
Government Policy & Support for the Sector
Sri Lanka has established a new Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to monitor the deep-sea fishing fleet, as it was a mandatory requirement for the removal of the EU fish ban. This new technology is a requirement for the sustainable management of the island's fisheries industry and the implementation of the global concept of the VMS, which has become mandatory.
Now Sri Lanka has implemented the fishery improvement project (FIP) for Sri Lankan longline tuna and billfish (LT&B) and Blue Swimmer Crabs which will help promote Sri Lankan seafood as sustainably sourced seafood.
Some Measures for the Expansion of the Fisheries Sector
The total extent of lagoons and estuaries has been estimated to be 158 000ha. Adjoining these estuaries and lagoons are an extensive area of low-laying delta lands estimated at 70,000 hectares. This area lends itself to aquaculture farms. That apart, the following measures can be adopted to expand the fisheries industry further.
- Concentrate more on value-added and convenient food production with the limited production
- Promote organic aquaculture production especially organic shrimps targeting high-end markets.
- Culture freshwater fish in the available reservoirs.
- Farm oysters, mussels, and seaweed
Major Varieties of Freshwater Fish
- Carps / Mirigal
- Catla / Rohu
- Hiri Kanaya
- Freshwater Prawns
Education & Training in the Fisheries Sector
The National Institute of Fisheries and Nautical Engineering (NIFNE), established in 1999, offers training programmes both for those engaged in fisheries and for those who wish to enter the sector. It is also responsible for conducting seminars, symposia, research, surveys, and other investigations, and also for developing and maintaining links with other educational and training institutions in the field of nautical engineering.
Research & Development and Product Development Facilities for the Fisheries Sector
There are some organizations dedicated to the development of the Fisheries industry in Sri Lanka, namely:
- National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) - NARA’s research interests span oceanography, fishing technology, the aquatic environment, inland aquatic resources, marine biological resources, post-harvest technology, socio-economics, and marketing.
- National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA) for the development and management of all freshwater aquatic resources in the country. It also promotes the development of aquaculture and sea farming.
- Ceylon Fisheries Cooperation - maintenance of cold storage facilities and production and sale of fishery by-products)
- Ceylon Fisheries Harbours’ Cooperation (and maintain fisheries infrastructure facilities such as proper landing facilities through construction, maintenance and management of harbours and anchorages.
- Department of Fisheries (Management, regulation, conservation and development of fisheries and aquatic resources)
- Cey-Nor Foundation Limited - Building, manufacturing, and selling fishing crafts, engines, gears, and the operation of workshops for repairing fishing crafts.
Responsible & Sustainable Inland Fishing & Aquaculture
Several management tools have been introduced to regulate inland fisheries and aquaculture activities that include the following:
- Control of fishing operations in estuaries and coastal lagoons through a licensing system.
- Prohibition of operation of harmful fishing methods, such as push nets, harpooning, Moxi nets and trammel nets.
- Management of inland fisheries through a licensing system.
- Prohibition of certain types of boats and fishing gear in inland water bodies.
- Licensing of aquaculture enterprises, including shrimp culture projects.
- Registration of fishing craft to control fishing capacity and fishing effort.
- Establishment of Management Committees for fisheries management areas.
- Registration of fishermen in the inland sector.
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