Amaraweera confident of resuming fish exports to EU later this year

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, on Monday, said that the government would address European Union concerns as regards unregulated fishing to regain the right to resume fish exports to EU member states.

Minister Amaraweera was addressing a gathering at Dickovita fisheries harbour after handing over Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to owners of fishing trawlers.

Each unit will cost approximateky Rs. 350,000. The ministry intends to provide VMS units to 1615 trawlers free of charge.

Expressing confidence that fish exports could be resumed later this year, Minister Amaraweera said that equipping the fishing fleet with VMS was a priority for the EU.

Minister Amaraweera said that the country was losing much needed foreign exchange due to the EU ban on fish imports from Sri Lanka.

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry was in the process of educating the fishing community with regard to international rules and regulations, MP Amaraweera said. The minister threatened to deal with those continuing to flout international rules and regulations.

Fisheries Ministry Secretary Nimal Hettiarachchi recently admitted there had been a delay on Sri Lanka’s part in procuring a VMS system.

Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne held the fisheries portfolio in the previous government.

Addressing a recent media conference, Minister Amaraweera revealed that in accordance with the EU regulations, the government had stopped Chinese owned vessels from fishing in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

Sri Lanka was the second largest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to EU countries. In 2013, Sri Lankan exports totalled 74 mn Euro.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki declared that Sri Lanka was warned in Nov 2012 to address EU concerns or face the consequences. The EU ban came into operation last October.

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