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Foreign vessels exporting out of SL spells trouble for local fishermen – Sajith

The fishing community is facing numerous challenges due to foreign fishing vessels being allowed to unload their stocks in Sri Lankan harbours, former Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa said.

Premadasa warned that this could sully the reputation of Sri Lankan fish-product exports as there is a tendency to mix “low quality” fish caught by foreign vessels with locally sourced fish, which are subsequently exported as Sri Lankan products.

“In Sri Lanka, there are around 6,000 fishing trawlers currently in operation. Some 40,000 people are directly involved in the fishing industry, with another 200,000 people indirectly involved. All of them are affected by this.

“Foreign vessels catch stocks of low-quality fish which are unloaded in Sri Lankan harbours. Those stocks are then mixed with other fish products and exported, which has a negative impact on our fishing industry,” Premadasa said.

The foreign vessels have been given permission to be registered under IMUL (multi-day) numbers, which Premadasa said was problematic.

“Through this, they have been given the opportunity to engage in fishing activities in Sri Lankan waters. We must think about what this means for the local fishing community,” he added.

The Former Opposition Leader further said that this is already taking place at the Dikowita Fisheries Harbour at present and will likely spread to other harbours around the country.

“It is the government’s duty to stop this immediately,” he said.

Asked for a comment, National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) Scientist Dr Sisira Haputhantri told EconomyNext that only foreign vessels registered under the Sri Lankan flag are allowed to fish in Sri Lankan waters.

“Such vessels can do exports as well,” he added.

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