tate Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Dilip Wedarachchi returned recently to Sri Lanka after a seven day tour of South Korea. During the tour, Sri Lankan representatives met South Korean Fishery Co-operatives Chairman Kim Im Kweon, officials from the Korean Oceans and Fisheries Ministry and a group
As a result of their discussions, Sri Lanka will receive the Korean Government’s support to develop the Sri Lankan Fishing industry.
The State Minister stated that the Korean government had agreed to support the fishing community in Sri Lanka.
Q Why was the decision taken to visit Korea? And what are the benefits on offer?
They (The South Koreans) agreed to support us on several projects in developing our fishing industry. Firstly, they agreed to help us build four multi-purpose fishery complexes in Udappuwa, Chalai, Delft
Those will be made with five meters of depth to facilitate entering large vessels. These complexes will include seafood restaurants, underwater restaurants, boutiques and hotels, diving facilities and passenger submarines, horse tracks and sport fishing, commercial trading, shopping malls and other facilities.
The feasibility reports of building multi-purpose harbors are free of charge from the Korean government.
They are funding us with loans at 0.25% interest. These fishing complexes are to use natural resources such as wind power and wave energy. Drinking and all other water supplies for the Delft harbor complex are expected to be made from sea water by desalination. Injecting CO2 into deep sea is said to create oil deposits in long term and we will be trying that in the future. The proposed blue city is mostly an environment friendly project.
Q Why Delft harbor?
The Delft fishing harbour is the focus as it is the first ‘Blue City’ under the Blue Economy concept. This blue economy is a practice of countries, which have great ocean resources. We have excellent potential in our ocean which is eight times larger than our land.
At the moment there is only a small harbour in the north of the island. The proposed harbor is a multi-billion dollar project comprising countless successful business ventures. We expect to permit the proposed first blue city for foreign investors as this project is economically feasible.
Q What are the other projects they are supporting?
The Korean government is supporting a housing project of 100 houses to be built in every fishing village and Rs. 550,000 is budgeted for each house.
The Korean government promised us to make two technical colleges, one in the north and one in the south to train the fishing community. These projects will be operated under the sponsorship of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives of Korea.
Many Sri Lankans travel to Korea for fishing employments but, many of them work in other occupations. Apparently 600 people have left their fishery related employments in Korea. According to them, the reason for this is the Sri Lankan employees are mostly not fishermen, but they pose as fishermen.
Therefore the Korean government asked us to stop this as it had caused serious problems in Korea. They are willing to give our fishing community a methodical training. We are having discussions with Thalatha Athukorala, the Minister of Foreign Employment, to send genuine fishermen to work in Korea.
Training centers are for meant for genuine members of the fishing community but anyone interested can apply for the training as well.
"The Delft fishery harbour is the focus as it is the first ‘Blue City’ under the Blue Economy concept. This blue economy is a practice of countries, which have great ocean resources. We have excellent potential in our ocean which is eight times larger than our land."
Q The ban from the European Community Fisheries Council had caused a major downfall in our fish exports. After lifting the ban, what are the steps taken to further our fishing industry vis-a-vis the European Union?
Actually, our endeavors have worked at last regarding removing the ban to export fish to EU. The President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the officials in Fisheries Ministry and Department were all dedicated and worked hard to get the ban lifted.
EU removed the ban only after thoroughly checking and observing fishing practices, and touring around our country. The representatives were delighted on the situation here.
“There is a great necessity to introduce laws and methods to prevent illegal fishing where the world fish resources run the risk of extinction. Therefore, according to the duties, I was delegated to review fishing methods adopted in developed countries and I have decided to directly engage the fishing community in this task along with NARA and other government institutions.
The European Union imposed the ban on Sri Lanka, due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. The IUU fishing resulted in legal fishermen being in difficulties, at the same time destroying the sustainability of the
The United Kingdom is the most important tuna importer for Sri Lanka, followed by France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. Following the EU imposition of ban Sri Lanka’s fishing industry tumbled as European countries are the main importers of our fish.
Q Have you ensured that no bans would be imposed on us in the future by the EU?
We are in a process to ensure that in the future. Under the 100-Days Program we have already provided VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) facility to all fishing ships and most of the ships have set VMS facility by now.
By adding this facility to fishing boats, all fishermen are able to find the exact location of their boats and they won’t drift into illegal waters.
At first, we faced difficulties finding funds for setting VMS for all fishing ships, but we used the fishing net subsidies for VMS temporarily, and the fishing nets will be looked into after VMS facility reaches everyone. We have banned the use of dynamite and the use of prohibited nets for catching fish now.
"Those will be made with five metres of depth to facilitate entering large vessels. These complexes will include seafood restaurants, underwater restaurants, boutiques and hotels, diving facilities and passenger submarines, horse tracks and sport fishing, commercial trading, shopping malls and other facilities. "
Q What have you done to reinforce fisheries industry in SL?
First of all, we have to generate new standards within the fishing community because the new generation is rejecting their traditional heritage, resulting in a decreasing fishing community workforce. Therefore, to protect the fishing industry in Sri Lanka, we have to raise their living standards and protect their profession by supporting and solving their problems to keep them engaged in their traditional profession.
Their ancestral knowledge and experience is incomparable as they know how to harvest fish, while not harming the potential of future fish harvest and the environment.
When the international quota system becomes operational, fishing will be challenging in future. After introducing large scale fishing boats to fishing unions discussions are in progress with the Korean Fishery Federation on using large scale fishing boats by the fishing community in Sri Lanka.
Q What do you think of the importance on putting suitable people in positions of authority?
Speaking about my own experience, I am a son of a successful fisherman, who lived in the south and began fishing as a business around coastal areas in Sri Lanka. As a kid, I’ve traveled seas with my father, gathering practical experience of the fishing community, which is important in making decisions regarding fishermen and their industry. But I lack the authority to use my knowledge in ways which will benefit our fishing community.
Q What is the rumoured conflict between you and Minister Amaraweera?
In fact, there is no conflict. It just was a misunderstanding. Now everything is sorted out and going well. Minister Amaraweera has supported us on these projects.
Q What are the other projects to be started here?
Even though we are living in an island, we are not making proper use of marine resources. We have been talking about a ferry service from Colombo to Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) in India as a means of Indo-Lanka goods and passenger transport.
These services are expected to operate between northern and southern Sri Lanka as well. With the four fishing complex projects, we are going to start a harbour in Tangalle as well. Two foreign investors from Italy and India recently visited Sri Lanka, held discussions and agreed to support the developing of fishing related tourism.
"When the international quota system becomes operational, fishing will be challenging in future. After introducing large scale fishing boats to fishing unions discussions are in progress with the Korean Fishery Federation on using large scale fishing boats by the fishing community in Sri Lanka. "