SFEASL-Spokesman Colonel Channa Weeratunga
The task force appointed by the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe in early January this year to work towards the lifting of the European Union’s (EU) ban on the local fisheries export to the region which was imposed in mid January this year has completed its work and listed all legislative requirements in line with EU’s requirements.
Speaking to Sunday Island, Spokesman for Sea Food Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SFEASL) and Executive Director, Global Fisheries (Pvt) Ltd, Colonel Channa Weeratunga said that the task force has also completed drafting regulations in line with the EU requirements and procedures have been documented.
“This task force was appointed early this year by the Prime Minister after a discussion with all stakeholders concerned and he is personally monitoring the progress,” said Weeratunga. The appointment of the task force was timely and expedited the exercise of working towards lifting of the ban, he added.
“Otherwise the lethargic and completely disorganized government servants of the Fisheries Ministry would have been sitting on these matters even at this critical moment of time.”
With an export market generating revenue of over USD 100 million annually, we are the second biggest fish exporter to the EU with our ‘yellow fin’ and ‘big eye tuna’ in high demand. Yet, we have been on the EU’s ‘Yellow Card’ since November 2012 for illegal fishing, not having complied with international regulations and lacking adequate controls. In October last year, a ‘Red Card’ was issued by the EU and the ban on local fishing exports to EU region was imposed in January this year. The ban is to be effective for six months during which the country is expected to work on fulfilling EU’s regulations. According to the SFEASL spokesman, since the ban, local fish exports have dropped by about 75% .
Absence of a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to monitor the Lankan vessels entering international waters was among the prime concerns of the EU. Weeratunga said 100 VMS units have already arrived and 80% of them have been installed. “Another 400 units are to arrive by June 15 and installation will be completed by August. However, we are working hard to complete it before that time.”
It is also learnt that a Fisheries Monitoring Centre will be in operation by June 15. He also noted that a progress report is to be furnished to the authorities of the EU by May 15. “They will then decide whether to send a EU delegation by June or not.”