A top Lankan delegation is scheduled to leave for Brussels on March 30 to discuss the EU Fishery ban. This meeting is expected to be the final, and a decisive meeting with EU on the fishery ban issue and its outcome will determine our fishery export outlook to Europe in future. We believe the outcome shall be favourable for Sri Lanka,” said Chairman of Seafood Exporters Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL) and Managing Director of Global Sea Foods, Prabhash Subasinghe.
Addressing a meeting at the EDB headed by State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe, Subasinghe said, “Especially in the post-ban period, our seafood exports are suffering and complicating the situation in the unfriendly import and export policy environment. For example, we need to pay a licence fee of US$50 per tonne of seafood we export while suffering from inadequate production volumes to meet the export demands”.
We need the government’s support for us to increase production. The 9 percent tariff charged by China on our seafood exports is a problem and this needs to be discussed at FTA formulation. We praise the government’s prompt responses to the EU in this, which are helping us to overcome our export setbacks.” Despite the ban, three EU countries- Italy, UK and Netherlands- were among the top five buyers of Lankan seafood in 2014, while the US and Japan topped the list (as no one and two) in the same year. Lankan seafood production tripled by 2015 from 2004 volumes and of the total harvest, only about a quarter is exported due to heavy domestic consumer demand.More than 70 percent of Lankan seafood exports consist of tuna fish.
The US$ 252.7 million Lankan seafood exports in 2014 but declined by 35 percent to US$ 163.1 million in 2015. On 14 October 2014, EU declared: “Sri Lanka is not complying with international rules on illegal fishing and Lankan control systems inadequate. Fisheries products caught by vessels flagged in Sri Lanka will not be able to enter the EU market.” Thereafter, in March 2015, under the supervision of Hon Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, a Committee was appointed on the fishery ban which continuously met, updating the EU with its progress reports. The 2014 EU fish ban affected Sri Lanka’s seafood exports and the 500,000 strong fishery sector livelihoods. Responding to SEASL Chairman Subasinghe and seafood exporters, Minister Subasinghe said: “I too have been given to understand that the EU fishery ban issue is now heading for a favourable resolution and a Lankan team leaving for Brussels is good news for you, our fishery exporters. In fact, 95 percent of compliance work on Fishery ban has been completed by us. The EU ban had a cascading effect on our fishery sector and livelihoods. It also damaged our international image as a reputed seafood exporter. Therefore it is time we commence an image building campaign and also time to launch a sustainable fisheries based efforts so that we can make fishery exports a US$ 1 billion sector soon.”