By Sandun A Jayasekera
All ships, trawlers and multi-day boats belonging to other countries or foreign companies fishing in Sri Lanka’s economic zone will have to hoist the lion flag and no vessel without Sri Lanka’s national flag will be permitted to fish in Sri Lanka’s economic zone in the Indian ocean, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.
"From January next year, every fishing vessel of Sri Lankan origin will have to install satellite guided Vessel Monitoring System"
Minister Senaratne told a media briefing that from January next year, every fishing vessel of Sri Lankan origin will have to install satellite guided Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) for easy monitoring.
“The European Union has given Sri Lanka three months to get its act together and prevent Sri Lankan fishermen from engaging in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and therefore we have no option but to put an end to this unlawful IUU fishing by our fishermen. At the same time we will have to prevent foreign craft fishing illegally in our waters,” Minister Senaratne stressed.
"Sri Lanka could not take the responsibility for IUU fishing by foreign vessels in Sri Lanka’s waters under foreign flags."
He said Sri Lanka could not take the responsibility for IUU fishing by foreign vessels in Sri Lanka’s waters under foreign flags. If such craft fish under Sri Lanka’s national flag, then Sri Lanka could monitor those vessels and prevent illegal fishing.
Minister Senaratne said most of the Sri Lankan fishing craft found for IUU fishing were smaller craft that could not engage in deep sea fishing or to the international waters. They trespass to other territories and get caught for illegal fishing. That is why the VMS has been made mandatory for all Sri Lankan fishing craft.
A foreign company has been contracted to lease a satellite to implement the VMS and install the equipment on fishing craft. Once the VMS is expected to eliminate IUU fishing, the EU would lift the yellow card it imposed on Sri Lanka.
Minister Senaratne said the EU had accepted the report submitted by Sri Lanka and was appreciative of the measures taken to eliminate IUU fishing.
“I have no doubt that the EU will have a positive approach on Sri Lanka after these measures that would put an end to IUU fishing within Sri Lankan waters and by our fishermen in territorial waters of other countries,” Minister Senaratne emphasized.
Commenting on the South Indian - Sri Lank fisheries issue, Minister Senaratne said he did not see a change in India’s policy on the matter just because of the jailing of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
However, there has been a sharp drop in illegal fishing in Sri Lanka’s waters by Tamil Nadu fishermen because Sri Lanka confiscates the fishing craft apprehended for illegal fishing. Sri Lanka releases only the fishermen after arrest.