The European Parliament will decide on June 26 whether to impose sanctions on export of fish from Sri Lanka over the allegation of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) by Sri Lankan fishermen in international waters, officials said yesterday.
However, Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Ministry which made submissions to the EU representatives last week in Brussels expects a positive outcome on the basis that a number of steps had been taken to contain IUU fishing.
After the EU issued a Yellow Card warning last year to Sri Lanka and seven other countries on IUU fishing, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said he took several steps to control such acts.
The minister said he and his officials went to Brussels and met Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Director General Lowri Evans and briefed him on the steps taken.
He said the EU had complained about 11 Sri Lankan vessels intruding into international waters for fishing.
“We have taken a number of measures. The EU is happy about it. We also have a vessel monitoring system in place,” he said.
The minister said the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996 would be amended to introduce stiff penalties for vessels intruding into international waters. A fine of Rs.1.5 million or two year imprisonment, and confiscation of fishing equipment are some of the punishments proposed in the new legislation.
“We have finished work on it. We only have to present it in Parliament. My discussion with EU officials was fruitful. We were able to impress upon them about our case. Our fisheries industry is a means of livelihood. Also, it is important for food security. Therefore, it is not practical to impose certain tough rules on vessel monitoring. We explained this to them,” he said.
The EU is Sri Lanka’s dominant trading partner for fish and fisheries product exports, which bring in an income of Rs.22 billion annually.
The EU has setup such a mechanism because IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts honest fisher folk at an unfair disadvantage, and weakens coastal communities, particularly in developing countries. The EU is working hard to close the loopholes that allow illegal operators to profit from their activities. (Kelum Bandara)