COLOMBO (EconomyNext) - A European Union ban on fish imports from Sri Lanka could be removed by the end of the year with the island having begun installing radio beacons on its deep sea fishing fleet, government and EU officials said.
Nimal Hettiarachchi, Secretary to the Ministry of Fisheries, said the government aims to install over 1,500 fishing vessels engaged in deep sea fishing with the radio transponders that enables their tracking.
"Within the next 3-4 months all vessels will be fitted with the vessel monitoring systems (VMS) allowing them to be monitored from a shore-based monitoring centre," he said.
"It will give the Fisheries Department the ability to investigate any illegal activity and intrusion in to unauthorised waters."
The EU imposed a ban on Sri Lankan fish in January as it had failed to comply with regulations to prevent Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
"The EU insists we should better monitor our boats in international waters to prevent IUU fishing," Hettiarachchi said.
"We've also amended our laws to strengthen punishment for IUU fishing as the old law lacked powers to control and punish boats in international waters."
The EU also wants better examining of fish catches that are unloaded in Sri Lanka.
Roshan Lyman, Commercial Attache of the Delegation of the EU for Sri Lanka, said the EU wants to ensure they import only fish caught using legal methods and that continuous replenishment of stock takes place.
He said he expects all Sri Lankan vessels engaged in deep sea fishing to be fitted with VMS by September.
"Now it's mainly a question of buying equipment and installing them. It will take us about two months to evaluate and approve it, which should happen by year-end."