Was the EU sanction a blessing in disguise to improve our fisheries sector?

European-UnionEU lifting of the trade sanctions to fisheries export offered the fisheries industry in Sri Lanka a new lease of life and helped to modernize the industry to go forward with good fishing practices that would eliminate illegal fishing practices. It embraces the fishing activities undertaken by all the provinces and includes a plan to comply with international standards. There are about three hundred thousand active fishermen engaged in marine and inland fisheries and over a million members of their household depend on the income from fishing and related activities.

EU sanctions imposed in January 2016 only a week after the New President took office were a blessing in disguise and have contributed positively to uplift the local fisheries sector. Encouraged by the President, the new government led by the Prime Minister addressed the issues raised by EU and geared into action. This included introducing several amendments to the Fisheries Act and introducing a vessel monitoring system to combat illegal fishing by developing a system, to send alerts from Colombo to every boat operating in the high seas.

The Fisheries and Aquatic resources Ministry thereafter took the initiative to upgrade most of the factories and vessels. With new processing factories to come in North-East and most of the existing factories in the rest of the country running under capacity, it is possible with coordinated efforts to increase the catch to run the factories at optimum capacity and with no quota restrictions export of sea food could bounce back within months.

EU ban lasted 15 months, during that time aided by good governance present and a lengthy process Sri Lanka has successfully reformed its fisheries governance system. The authorities are now focusing on manufacturing bigger vessels and arming fishermen with latest technology to increase the harvest, to counter act the possibility of increase in price of fish in the local market due to supply constraints due to re-opening of the EU market. Further the Prime Minister has advised the Sri Lankan Navy to provide better security for the fishing vessels when out at sea and take preventive measures needed to exclude all pouching activities by fishing vessels from other countries as a relief to the local fisher community.