Illegal fishing: Lanka gets yellow card from EU

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The Government will not intervene to secure the release of Sri Lankan fishermen who have been arrested overseas after allegedly straying into territorial waters of other countries, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said.He said the policy would be adopted from January next year as an indication that Sri Lanka was adhering to European Union guidelines.

Sharks at the dock of Negombo fish market

Sharks at the dock of Negombo fish market

The move follow a decision by the EU to issue a ‘Yellow Card’ warning to Sri Lanka and seven other countries over Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. �The minister said the EU had complained about 11 cases during the past year where Sri Lankan fishermen had intruded into territorial waters of other countries.

European Commissioner Maria Damanaki, who is in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “This is not a black list, but a yellow card. We want these countries as partners to combat illegal fishing. EU treats IUU fishing as a criminal activity which undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks.”

The other countries warned were Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu. This list covers only the main fish exporting countries. India which heavily poaches in Sri Lankan water is not listed.

The EU is Sri Lanka’s dominant trade partner for fish and fisheries product exports, bringing in an income of about Rs. 22 billion annually.

IUU fishing refers not only to the illegal fishing using unsustainable methods of catching fish, but it also includes Unreported fishing to the relevant national authority and Unregulated fishing generally referring to fishing by vessels without nationality, or vessels flying the flag of a country not party to the regional organisation governing that fishing area or species.

National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA) Chairman Sayuru Samarasundara said Sri Lanka was preparing a report to be submitted to the EU Commission following the warning.

He said that over the past few years, stringent action had been taken to curb illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters.

He said monitoring illegal fishing was a difficult task that needed more man power. The NARA chairman also stressed that this could not be done alone, so it needed a consorted effort by the Police, the Navy and the Coast Guard.

Published in SundayTimes on front page on 25.11.2012 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/121125/news/illegal-fishing-lanka-gets-yellow-card-from-eu-22157.html

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