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‘Challenges and issue faced by Tuna industry’:

Explore fisheries export market

Text of the speech by Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne at 11th INFOFISH World Tuna Trade Conference held on September 13, 2010 at Bangkok, Thailand

The 11th INFOFISH World Tuna Trade Conference and its significance bears ample testimony by holding the conference since 1986 every other year. I have perused your past records and this conference has proven to be very successful and I am pleasantly surprised to witness 800 delegates from world over who are present at this important event.


Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne

Also I am thankful to INFOFISH for having themed this conference on ‘Challenges and Issue Faced by the Tuna Industry’ which is timely.

I would like to focus on the history of Tuna industry and the measures that have been taken by my Ministry towards the sustainability of Tuna industry in Sri Lanka and our compliance with illegal unreported and unregulated fishing that Sri Lanka has been alleged for not being complied with and also the obligations and aspirations of my Ministry to develop the Tuna fishing in Sri Lanka.

Coastal areas

Tuna fishery is among the oldest industries in the world and there are evidence that Atlantic Bluefin Tuna fishing had been done in the 2000 BC.

Until the second part of 20th Century, fishing was carried out mostly on coastal areas and industrial fisheries have begun during the 1940s and 1950s, as a result of increasing demand for canned tuna. In the late 1950s, this industry had been started in the Atlantic Ocean and after 1952, it has expanded rapidly into oceanic areas initially in the Pacific and in the 1980s, further expanded to the Indian Ocean.

In speaking of Tuna fishery in Sri Lanka, we produce about 250,000 metric tons annually and provides direct employment to about 675,000 people comprising 175,000 in active fishing, 100,000 in associated service activities and 400,000 in the fish trade to provide livelihood to a population over 20.50 million.

Our export industry that caters to all key markets across the globe with an annual export of US D 180 million of fisheries products is an extremely important revenue stream to the country as well to the livelihood of those who are in the trade. We are extremely committed to this industry and its development so that the industry could develop to USD 1.00 billion in exports by 2016.

Fish production

Our per capita consumption of fish in 2009 was 11.4 kg. My Ministry is working towards increasing this at least to 22 kg by 2013 and to achieve this target, total annual fish production would be increased up to 686,000 mt.

Following Obligations and Aspirations have been identified to follow in achieving the target of increasing the fish production and it is my pleasure to present this information to you.

Sri Lanka is historically a Tuna fishing nation and has played a vital role in the tradition and culture. Thus, we are bestowed with the rights to continue in expansion of the Tuna fishing with the adequate understanding of conservation and biological sustainability of the resources.

We possess the necessary infrastructure and skilled human resources to sustain the Tuna fishing industry which has spread through the coast line of 1,760 km which is the second largest coast line in South Asia.

It is to be highlighted the fact that a highly reputed market in Europe, Japan and the USA for Tuna production has been developed by us.

As a responsible fishing nation, relevant conventions and regulations have been incorporated into the national legislation for better management in fishing industry.

The Indian Ocean, the smallest of the ocean, surrounded by majority of developing states of Asia and Africa, some of which are among the least developed with the largest single concentration of the world’s population, is vital in terms of dependence for nutritional needs, transport, communication and security which have increased competition for access to resources and maritime activities.

IUU regulations

As fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister, I took part at KOBEII conference held in July this year in Brisbane and Sri Lanka could not participate for IOTC sessions for over last four years which has led to a lot of misunderstanding with the member countries of OITC.

The reason for not participating is well-known as my country has engaged in a terrible war against terrorism for 30 years and our government has given the priority to combat the war situation through humanitarian operations.

This meeting was very useful particularly to Sri Lanka as we have been able to reiterate that our country is in full compliance with the aspirations of the IOTC as well as the IUU regulations.

My Ministry took every effort required to ensure that the country was prepared to meet the IUU regulations that was effected on January 1,2010.

As a responsible fishing nation, our laws and by-laws as well as the framework in which the industry operates, have been established well ahead under the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act of 1996. Therefore, IUU compliance is inevitable. Let me also shift to a slightly different note to express my pleasure in meeting the Secretary General of IOTC, Alej (h) andro at the last KOBE II conference in Brisbane and later he further paid an official visit to my country in the same month of July where we have further strengthened our relationship with IOTC. It is unfortunate as we missed his company this time as he could not participate at the conference due to health reasons.

Monitoring system

I am happy to mention that we could resolve all issues with IOTC and they have gone to the extent of sending a compliance coordinator to Sri Lanka to facilitate the system in reporting to IOTC and regulating vessels, even though we have been adhering to these formalities which we have not reported to the IOTC.

Further, our fishermen have been charged with illegal fishing around British Isles. But I have explained in my meeting with the Secretary General of IOTC and as he agreed, those fishermen have swayed into these areas because of lack of an efficient Vessel Monitoring System to communicate when they enter into territorial waters of other countries.

I am confident on implementing a more sophisticated Satellite system before end of this year as my Ministry is in the process of negotiating with several companies.

I should emphasize that we are in the process of strengthening the following measures immediately to ensure the long-term sustainability of Tuna industry.

* To expedite the procedures to implement the VMS as stated earlier to all multiday boats.

* To implement offshore fleet development plan.

* Upgrading and improving data collection and reporting system especially for offshore resources.

* To strengthen Port State Measures by giving more strength to fish landing regulations.

* To strengthen Flag State Measures by amending present act to provide authority to fish in high seas, to conduct awareness programs to stakeholders and authorities on duties and responsibilities as a flag state.

* Sri Lanka is committed to working with the IOTC as well as to be a responsible fishing nation.

It is my fervent duty also to thank Fisheries Department in Thailand, Food and Agricultural Organization, IOTC and other co-organizers who collaborated with INFOFISH to hold this conference and exhibition.

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