The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources warn that there is a risk of over provision of small fishing boats in seven districts in Sri Lanka. This could contribute to over-fishing and result in long-term damage to the coastal fisheries resource.
FAO urges all actors in fisheries sector to participate in the coordination mechanism jointly with the Ministry in an effort to resolve this issue, FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator for Sri Lanka Mona Chaya said.
Recent data suggests an over-replacement of boats in Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa and Jaffna districts. These districts will likely see an increase in Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) and traditional fishing boats compared to fleet sizes before the tsunami.
Sri Lanka benefited from a generous outpouring of international support for its tsunami relief effort. An unprecedented large number of actors including local and international NGOs, donor agencies, private sector entrepreneurs, groups as well as individual well-wishers both local and foreign contribute to post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction in the fisheries sector.
Some NGOs have responded positively to Ministry's concerns and have drastically cut down on the provision of new boats. These include Sewa Lanka and the British Red Cross. CORDAID is planning to introduce an awareness raising campaign to inform fishers regarding sustainable resource and ecosystem management as a result of consultations with the ministry.
"The fleet size was already unsustainably large before the tsunami" said G. Piyasena, Director General of the Dept. of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. If the pledges by various NGOs and donors are completely fulfilled, there could be an excess of over 2000 traditional crafts and 2,200 FRP boats in the coastal fishery compared to the pre-tsunami situation.
Research had already indicated signs of over-fishing in many coastal fisheries before the tsunami. Fishers had started resorting to smaller and smaller mesh nets to target dwindling stocks.
A study supported by FAO in 2003 shows that in areas excluding north and east, the increase in coastal fish production has been marginal, from 130 000 tonnes in 1989 to 142,000 tonnes in 2002, although the number of fishers in the coastal fishery almost doubled over that period.