The aquaculture farm project in Mannar, which had faced obstacles in going forward due to the land area being classified as a nature reserve, got Cabinet approval to resume its development this week. Sustainable Development and Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera had proposed to the Cabinet to remove the land extent identified for the project from the limits of the Vedithalathivu Natural Reserve.
Mirror Business recently exclusively reported on the difficulties the fishery industry was facing in developing the project, due to the barren land it was allocated being reclassified as a natural reserve.
Originally planned to be a 4,000-acre project, the cabinet yesterday said that 3,684 acres or 1,491 hectares will be removed from the natural reserve for the project, which the cabinet named Aquaculture Industrial Estate in Manthai.
Four companies of the Sri Lanka Seafood Exporters Association had already pledged to divide four land blocks of 500 acres each and invest a total US$ 72 million in initial investments to kick start the project.
An association spokesman said that the project would be operated similar to a smallholder model.
The Cabinet said that the goal is for fisheries exports to reach US$ 1.3 billion by 2020. The Seafood Exporters Association had stated that 10 such aquaculture projects are required to reach the target, and the delays and difficulties in getting just one off the ground was concerning.
Sri Lanka is reaching its limits in exporting fisheries using fish sourced from the oceans, and fish farming is required to boost exports.
Fish exports for the first 6 months of this year increased 40.3 percent year-on-year to US$ 117.1 million, helped by the removal of the European Union fishing ban on Sri Lanka last year. (CW)