By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday said that he was hopeful that the European Union (EU) would, before the year end, lift the ban on Sri Lanka fish exports, imposed in January this year.
Amaraweera told The Island that the government had taken action to ensure that the fishermen complied with all the conditions laid down by the EU.
The government was eagerly awaiting the European Union’s assessment of Lankan crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, said the minister.
The EU had laid down 57 conditions and the Fisheries Ministry had ensured that all of them would be met, he added. “I took up the issue with EU officials during a recent visit to Spain. I also briefed them on how Sri Lanka was fast tracking the implementation process.”
Minister Amaraweera said the ministry had already installed Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) free of charge on 1,615 multi-day fishing craft. The location of the boat could be monitored through the operation centre at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, he said.
An EU technical team would arrive in Sri Lanka in November to evaluate the developments and would make their recommendations. Based on its recommendations the EU would lift the ban on Lankan fish exports,” the Minister said.
“We are awaiting the inspection by an EU delegation due on November 13,” Minister Amaraweera said, noting that he believed the EU would take cognizance of positive changes in the country’s fishing industry as a result of the on-going efforts to stem illegal fishing.
Minister Amaraweera said that the Cabinet approval had been granted for amending the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No 02 of 1996 to impose penalties for the offences committed in the international sea to conform with international standards, to determine the penalties regarding the quantity of fish and the size of the vessel at the time of the offence, to enhance the penalty for offences regarding importation and exportation as five times of the quantity of fish, to introduce the method of administrative penalty which is absent in the current act and to create a sustainable and responsible fisheries culture in Sri Lanka.
The Minister added that the government was also ready to answer any questions the EU might have and to clarify its policy and plans to overhaul the country’s marine fishing industry.