By Chandeepa Wettasinghe Sri Lanka is now setting standards for fishing practices in the Indian Ocean, compared to its situation just a few years ago, the European Union (EU) Delegation in Sri Lanka and the Maldives said recently. “Sri Lanka has now moved from being a bad pupil in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to now being the champion through practice. It has not only adopted the rules but actually gone into a different league,
where it is actually setting standards,” Political, Trade and Communications Counsellor for EU Delegation in Sri Lanka and the Maldives Paul Godfrey said. He noted that this was the reason why the fish import ban from Sri Lanka, which was enforced in October 2014, was lifted this April. “The decision to lift the ban was a reflection of Sri Lanka’s exemplary commitment to implementing the regulations of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. These aren’t EU regulations. It’s the Indian Ocean body which sets the regulations,” Godfrey said.
The Sri Lankan government had to install a vessel monitoring system in all of the country’s fishing boats that exit Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone and enter into international waters. The fishing ban was imposed due to a complaint from the British government. “Originally, the fishing ban was imposed because of a complaint made by the British Indian Ocean Territory that Sri Lankan vessels were illegally fishing in their waters,” Godfrey said.
The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) or the Chagos Archipelago, is uninhabited, except for a US military base in the largest island Diego Garcia, and the Sri Lankan fishing boats had entered the BIOT waters on several occasions. The British government provided the use of Diego Garcia to the US in return for receiving discounts on deploying US-made nuclear weapons. In the 1960s, the UK drove out over 1,500 natives living in the Chagos Archipelago in order to isolate the base from the rest of the world. When asked if the EU will take part in the issue of fishermen crossing the boundaries between India and Sri Lanka, Godfrey said that such issues should be resolved bilaterally.