Recording a quantum leap in the local seafood industry, Sri Lanka recently graduated to the rating of ‘Good Alternative’ for blue swimming crab fisheries in the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar, thus becoming the trailblazer in Asia to achieve this accolade for eco-recommended fisheries.
It gained such recognition at the Global Seafood Market Conference held in San Diego last month, when North America’s leading seafood rating establishment, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, released its new global recommendations for amberjack, carp, crab, smelt and trout, and updated recommendations for crab and lobster.
However, Sri Lanka was officially granted the commendation on January 17 at the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry in the presence of State Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Dilip Wedaarachchi, Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL) President Dilan Fernando, high-ups from the General Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Department and Export Development Board, and Dr. Steve Creech, Coordinator for Sri Lanka Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) – a collaboration between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), seafood companies exporting blue swimming crab products and the fishing community.
During the confab, FIP Coordinator Dr. Creech lauded GoSL, SEASL and island’s pioneering sustainable seafood farming company, Taprobane Seafood Group (TSG) for taking apt measures and bespoke initiatives to upgrade the rating of Sri Lankan blue swimming crab to ‘Good Alternative’ in 2018. He underscored that the local seafood sector was presently flourishing with a total export volume of a whopping 5,000 MT valued at USD 25 million (LKR 4.5 billion) targeting the US, Singapore
Furthermore, Dr. Creech said he fervently believed Sri Lanka would be able to upgrade to the rating of ‘Best Choice’ by 2021 through the introduction of a regulation of blue swimming crab fishing, an export schedule for seafood exporters, annual stock assessments, more non-target species and ecological impact studies and declaration of new Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) for Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Puttalam Districts and Fisheries Management Committees in
“Within a short spell of time, the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka has demonstrated progress in leaps and bounds owing to comprehensive research and intellectual discourse on the subject area, and the active engagement of the government, SEASL and TSG. The grading of ‘Good Alternative’ for blue swimming crab is a cause for celebration for relevant authorities that toiled and doled out their resources, as Sri Lanka will now gain immediate access to premium markets for eco-recommended crab products in the US, EU and Australia. Disproportionate profits from the sale of crab products to niche markets will proliferate the value of seafood exports (USD 190 million in 2018). This in turn will augment the sector’s contribution to national economic development (2.7% of GDP in 2017). Hence, this commendation is a great achievement that will give Sri Lanka a competitive edge over a plethora of other countries that export seafood. The total cost of improving fisheries over the past five years stands at USD 1 million – 1% of the export value of the BSC fishery during the stipulated timeframe,” he said.
The Palk Bay Fishery ranging from Kayts, Delft, Velanai, Pooneryn, Manthai West to Mannar Town claims 2,000 boats and 3,000 fisherfolk while the Gulf of Mannar Fishery covering Mannar Town, Nananthan, Musalai, Wanathawilluwa, Puttalam and Kalpitiya is home to 4,000 boats and 6,000 fisherfolk. Coincidentally, these fisheries nestle in localities predominated by Taprobane Seafood Group that operates through 10 processing facilities in Northern and Northwestern Provinces. It is commendable that this reputed company has played a pivotal role in Sri Lanka’s latest advancement in the fisheries sector through a commitment to sustainable practices and community empowerment. The company has come to be known for producing pasteurized crab meat, frozen and fresh tuna and various other seafood products for some of the world’s most respected brands. At present, its clientele is largely based in the United States, Australia, Japan and the European Union (EU).
Against this backdrop, Taprobane Seafood Group Managing Director Timothy O’ Reilly expressed his exuberance to be a part of this national achievement. He recounted how Sri Lanka adroitly devised strategies to attain the excellence it relishes today.
“I am profusely contented with being a significant contributor to this national accomplishment. This wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Sri Lanka Fisheries Improvement Project initiated by Dr. Steve Creech and also the in-depth gap analysis conducted by Jeremy Crawford of the NFI Crab Council in 2013. This achievement stems from collective effort from various entities including the Sri Lankan Government. We will work untiringly towards upgrading the current rating to ‘Best Choice’ by 2021,” he said.
TSG is the first Sri Lankan entity to receive the most prestigious certification for food standards (FSSC-22000). At last year’s National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) Awards Ceremony, TSG bagged the Fisheries Sector Extra-Large Category Award as well as two other special honours for rendering yeoman services to sustainable development efforts in the Northern Province through the Employment Generation and Livelihood through Reconciliation (EGLR) Project and for creating employment opportunities for the differently-abled in war-torn areas. In 2014, it clinched the Presidential Award for the Highest Foreign Exchange Earner in the seafood sector.