ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has halted coastal fisheries from Kalutara South of the capital to Negombo in the north over debris and chemicals pollution from the burning hulk of the ill-fated ship MV X-Press Pearl, leaving 5,600 fishing boats without work, a minister said.
“The ban will continue until officials such as Marine Environmental Protection Authority and National
Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency gives us the clearance for fishing again,” State Minister for fisheries Kanchana Wijesekara said.
“Not only the fishing community, have we also identified around 28 industries that is affected by this ban such as dry fish vendors, fish vendors.”
In addition to the coastal area stretching over 80 kilometres, fishermen from further North towards Wennapuwa have also been told not to down to the area, he said.
There was no bar fishermen from other areas, Wijesekara said.
He said around 5,600 one-day boats involved in coastal fisheries have been hit by the ban.
Authorities were working out a compensation scheme with the Treasury he said.
However multi-day boats fishing in deep water and those fishing in international waters have been allowed to work he said.
Wijesekara said fish now in the market did not come from the polluted waters as there was no fishing over the past two days which was a Buddhist holiday, but from earlier.
“There is no reason to panic and we can assure you that no fish that was sold were contaminated due to this incident,” Wijesekara said.
“We banned fishing from last Sunday and no fish from those areas came to the market.”
Chairperson o the Marine Environmental Protection Authority, Dharshani Lahandapura said plastic granules from flotsam and chemicals were affecting marine life.
“These beads have spread from Dikovita to Ma oya beach and beaches from Wellawatta to Galkissa to Angulana have also been polluted due to this incident,” she said.
“We have fishing breeding places, Negombo lagoon and Mangrove plants and these are very sensitive environment and we believe this incident can affect them as well.”
Fishing has been halted in Negombo lagoon and protective gear have been placed to prevent debris from coming in, Wijesekera said.
Lahandapura said MEPA was collecting evidence to submit a claim against the ship. An expert panel was being assembled to assess the impact, which may take as much as three years, she said.
In the meantime, an interim claim will be made. Already a complaint was made at Harbhour Police she said.
Indian Coast Guard Vessels equipment containment equipment were standing by in case there was an oil leach from the X-Press Pearl, Sri Lanka Navy said.
By May 28, the fire on the ship was confined to the stern and the likelihood of it breaking up and sinking was reduced, State Minister of Coastal Conservation Nalaka Godahewa said.
Investigations were under-way to find if someone is at fault, but the first priority was to put the fire out, he said. (Colombo/ May 28/2021 – Updated)