Ornamental fish industry says it is a goldmine;  environmentalists disagree

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Ornamental fish industry was a goldmine since more than 90 percent of the revenue it earned remained in the country unlike any other industry, the Ornamental Fish Exporters’ Association (OFEA), Co-Chairman Rohan Fernando said.

 Addressing the media at the Fisheries Ministry on Tuesday Fernando alleged that environmentalists, through their baseless allegations, were providing information to international competitors and enabling them to capture the market. 

He stressed that present law relating to the exporting of endangered and endemic freshwater fish species had constricted their export capacity.

OFEA asked the authorities to relax the present laws.

Economic Development Deputy Minister, Susantha Punchinilame said that the industry was a true money spinner and even small scale exporters could easily earn between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 100,000 a month.   

 According to the Ministry, environmental organizations had decided to boycott the meeting with Economic Development Deputy Minister held in this regard the same day, although they had been invited.

 However, environmentalists accused the Fisheries Ministry of allegedly misleading them by saying the meeting was only a first in a series of friendly discussions.

 Environmental Lawyer Jagath Gunawardane said that they had received the notice only the previous day and the environmentalists were not aware of the media participation.

 "Instead of making provisions to relax the law, we need to strictly enforce the existing law to protect our rich biodiversity," Gunawardane told The Island.

He said that although regulations required artificial breeding for export purposes, the traders exported fish taken from their natural habitat. "Our studies have revealed shrinking of their population at an alarming rate", the leading environmental lawyer said.

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