Sri Lanka may loose Sea cucumber market!

Sri Lanka is considered as one of the major countries that produce bêche-de-mer, a significant quantity of sea cucumber gets wasted due to poor processing practices. Over-harvesting of sea cucumbers is often indicated by the reduction of high-value species and increment or introduction of low-value species in the commercial harvest.

In Sri Lanka, sea cucumber fishery is presently confined to the northern cap from Kalpitiya on Northwestern coast through Puttalam Islands around Gulf of Mannar, Trincomalee, Pothuwil and Kalmunei in the Northeast and Eastern coastal waters of Sri Lanka. For generations fishermen in the northern region have grown without fishing as they were barred from entering the sea by the security forces. The closure of the sea cucumber fishery in the northern region (Jaffna peninsula) until the conclusion of the civil war period did impact heavily on the industry. Thus the sea cucumber fish-eries can confer substantial livelihood benefits to the fishing community, if sustainably managed.

Today, there are new sea cucumber farms located in the peninsula at Ariyalai and Gowdarimunai, where the sea cucumber hatchery is located and it is run by a Chinese company, named Gui Lan (Pvt) Ltd. The land for the hatchery has been leased for 10 years by a local in the Jaffna peninsula. A license has been obtained from the NAQDA though the Gowdarimunai Fisheries society.

In this scenario, this sea cucumber farm in the Northern Province, a joint venture between the Chinese company and two Sri Lankans, has turned into a debate about Chinese involvement in the Northern Province doing a business of an untouched market – sea cucumber, without the locals being introduced on a big scale!