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Today is the World Fisheries Day
Fisheries sector a major
contributor to the economy

Sri Lanka exported 21,000 metric tons (MT) of fish in 2008 which earned Rs. 19.1 billion or USD 176 million, USAID study reveals.

Although it was only seven per cent of the fish caught in 2008, exported fish accounted for 29 per cent of the total value contributed by the sector to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Fishing is the principal employment for 250,000 persons here, about two per cent of the workforce. Last year -2008- the fishing sector contributed Rs. 66 billion to Lanka’s GDP at current prices about 1.5 per cent. In 2008, 93 per cent of all fish caught here was consumed here.

Needles to say fish is an important part of Sri Lankan meal. Certainly, fish in a country like ours is a source of nutrition and a source of income. In Sri Lanka although the fisheries sector is largely small scale it provides direct employment to nearly 300,000 people, food security and the generation of foreign exchange. Contribution to GDP from the fisheries sector was almost about three per cent in the year 2006. With the eradication of terrorism there would certainly an increase in the fish catch. Thus, this sector would contribute to our economy.

The fisheries sector can be divided into three sub-sectors, which are marine, brackish water and fresh water fisheries. Marine fisheries are fishing in sea which is carried out in terms of in-shore (coastal) and off-shore fishing. Brackish water fisheries are fishing in lagoons and estuaries scattered around the island.

About 89 lagoons and 45 estuaries can be found in Sri Lanka. Whereas fresh water fisheries are fishing in reservoirs and about 10,000 such reservoirs are found in Sri Lanka.

Fisheries sector in Sri Lanka too is facing a number of issues and is in a period which requires more attention than ever.

Depletion of fish stocks and fish habitats, lack of marketing facilities and access to technologies related to fish processing, lack of efficient extension services are some of the major issues faced by fisheries sector.

Some of these problems could be attributed to unsustainable illegal, unregulated fishing practices such as large scale vessels such as trawlers, eco-system insensitive constructions for tourism industry, inappropriate macro scale development interventions, sedimentation of lagoons and estuaries, conflict among resource users and lack of or inefficient regulation by the state. However, many are confident that President Mahinda Rajapakse would certainly come out with a magic spell to improve the fishing sector.

The rapid growth in demand for fish and fish products, in combination with shrinking supply, is leading to significant increases in fish prices. As a result, fisheries investments have become more attractive to both entrepreneurs and governments. This is to the detriment of small-scale fishing and fishing communities all over the world.

Today November 21, is World Fisheries Day celebrated by fisher folk communities through rallies, workshops, public meetings, cultural programs, dramas, exhibition, music show, and demonstrations to highlight the importance of maintaining the world’s fisheries.

Yet, what is being done to address the problems faced by the fishers? World Fisheries Day is a wake-up call, imploring us to ensure fisheries are here tomorrow, so they can continue to sustain a way of life and provide a nutritional source of protein to us all. Unless we address these issues collectively, the crisis will deepen.

The World Fisheries Day helps to highlight these problems, and moves towards finding solutions to the increasingly inter-connected problems faced especially by the fishing community and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks

Today, Practical Action is organizing a workshop to discuss on "Sri Lankan fisheries sector today".

A word about the experts

Dr. Sivasubramanium is an expert in fisheries who has been contributing to fisheries education for last 46 years. He has gained his academic qualifications from University of London and University of Tokyo.  Being a researcher and a university professor he has served in more than 25 countries in the world. At this event, Dr. Sivasubramanium will speak on the history and evolution of the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka.  

Wijayarathna, academically qualified from University of Tokyo, has more than 25 years experience in training fishers and fisheries extension officers. This includes his extensive experience working with fishers in introducing fishing gears and fishing methodologies. Wijayarathna would focus on Leadership Dynamics in small scale fishery and fisheries cooperative societies in Sri Lanka. 

Dr. Thilak Priyadarshana who has more than 13 years experience in Lagoon fisheries in Sri Lanka is an expert in ecological engineering. The PHD holder of University of Faitama is more interested in hydrological analysis. Currently serves as the Dean of Fisheries faculty, University of Ruhuna. On his speech, Dr. Thilak would concentrate on Lagoon Eco-systems and Sri Lankan fishery.

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