NPC calls for return of fishers to Northern HSZ

Lifting of EU ban shows political dialogue and reforms have positive economic consequences

The importance of conforming to international standards has been borne out by the lifting of the EU ban on Sri Lankan fish and fisheries products, the National Peace Council said in a statement issued yesterday.

 The following is the full text of the statement: "The ban was imposed due to the failure of the previous government to comply with international standards and adequate control systems to tackle the problem of illegal fishing.  A European Commission statement in October 2014 highlighted that Sri Lanka was authorizing very large vessels to fish in the Indian Ocean without marine GPS (VMS), rendering control totally impossible.  In those circumstances the EU went to the next level and formally identified Sri Lanka in the fight against illegal fishing and announced that fisheries products caught by vessels flagged in Sri Lanka will not be able to enter EU market after January 2015. 

 Despite the EU ban, the EU statement also made the point that the Commission will continue to work with Sri Lanka to guide it towards a better system. This offer was accepted by the new Sri Lankan government.  On the 13th of January this year, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote to the EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs requesting that the EU and Sri Lanka work together to address the issues which initiated the process for lifting the ban.  The National Peace Council commends the actions of the government in getting the EU ban lifted and restoring economic livelihoods to the people.  The EU market accounted for 68 per cent of Sri Lanka’s fish exports amounting to USD 108 million according to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera who was part of the negotiation process.

 The lifting of the EU ban shows that political dialogue and reforms can have beneficial economic consequences to the country’s people. The successful approach of the new government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the fisheries crisis with the EU needs to be utilised in the context of the problem of illegal fishing in the northern seas, which requires dialogue and negotiation with the Indian government.  The National Peace Council also notes that the northern high security zone has not yet been released to the fishermen and there are a large number of fishing families among the thousands struggling for their livelihood. Allowing the fishermen to use this zone for fishing and dealing with the issue of Indian fishing in the northern seas of Sri Lanka will also add income to the national economy."

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