A boon for fisheries
The Government's decision to ease fishing restrictions
in Jaffna following the regaining of Pooneryn is a welcome move
and one that would greatly ease the hardship of a community that
has been the worst hit by the three decades long conflict.
The battles in the North and the ensuing security imperatives
dealt a body blow to the fishing community in the North whose
livelihoods were virtually washed away into the seas. Now they
have been given hope of restarting their shattered lives and
once again becoming their industrious selves, a hallmark of the
According to Military Spokesman Brig.Udaya Nanayakkara with
the entire North western seaboard now under the control of the
Forces it has been possible to not only lift the restriction on
fishing hours but also the perimeters for fishing.
The problems of the Northern fisherman had been a major issue
during the three decades long conflict. Naturally the Security
situation compelled the authorities to impose restrictions on
fishing due to the threat of Tigers mingling with or posing as
fishermen and also the use of fishing boats to smuggle weapons.
From time to time representations had been made by the
Catholic Bishops of Jaffna and Mannar to the Government for
easing these restrictions to enable fishermen to continue with
their livelihood. No doubt these restrictions put paid to a once
thriving fishing industry and dealt a blow to the Northern
The fishing industry as a whole suffered since even the
migrant fishermen of the South were debarred from their
traditional stakeouts. This also in a way affected the fish
prices in other parts of the country.
The fishermen have said that with the lifting of restrictions
they would now be able to catch at least 8,000 kg -10,000 kgs of
fish daily. This, it is hoped would be the beginning of the
revival of the Northern fisheries sector and the transport of
fish from Jaffna to the South as in the past.
This, while leading to a drop in fish prices bringing a rich
source of protein within the purse of the average consumer would
also reforge a vital link with the North that was severed all
these years. In this respect the Government should be commended
for losing no time in restoring normality in the areas
recaptured from the LTTE by ensuring a return to civilian life
and normal activities.
It should now take steps to gradually start rebuilding the
fisheries infrastructure in the North that was destroyed over
the years as well as the shattered community life. The sooner it
starts this process with the liberation of territory the better
the chance of winning the hearts and minds of the people.
This it is doing successfully in the East and hopefully would
be replicated in the newly liberated areas in the North as well.
As mentioned all measures should taken to revive the once
thriving fishing industry in the North as a step in the
It is common knowledge the Northern seas fetch rich harvests
and steps should be taken to set up a fish canning factory in
the North. This while providing employment to the youth would
also provide big boon to the fishery sector in the peninsula.
It is an indictment on Sri Lanka that although being an
island nation we are still importing canned fish. This is partly
due to fact that we still adopt primitive methods for fishing
unlike other countries who use sophisticated gear and equipment
to net in a bigger catch and larger varieties.
Our fishermen too should be made familiar with modern fishing
methods so that we could not only cater to the local demand but
also export our fish and earn valuable foreign exchange.
Our fishermen should be educated to go beyond their
traditional fishing methods and embrace new trends. The
University for Ocean Sciences (Sagara Vishwavidyalaya) a
brainchild of President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was Minister
of Fisheries and incorporated in the Mahinda Chintanaya it is
hoped would help bring our fishermen up to date with the latest
It is paramount that they be induced to cast off moribund
methods and adopt new technology in order to catch up with the
latest trends in fishing, if we are to make maximum use of our
A loan scheme should be started to provide fishermen with
modern equipment and other wherewithal. Our fishermen should be
elevated to a new status so they could take pride in their
Today like the children of farmers the offspring of fishermen
too venture out into new pastures outside their traditional
calling. This would see a dwindling the tribe of fishermen with
their next generation opting for 'respectable' jobs. This trend
should be arrested by providing more incentives and enhancing
the prospects of our fishing community.