Following continuing action by activists and reports in media including the Sunday Times, the government has banned spearfishing.
The gazette notice last month says: “No person shall engage in any fishing operation using spear guns or hand held spears within Sri Lanka.” The regulation also specifies that no person shall use or possess, or have on board any local fishing boat, any spear gun.
Spearfishing is a method of killing fish by a shooting a ‘pointed spike’ using a ‘spear gun’. Earlier, spearfishing was done by skin divers, but now scuba kits allow divers to remain under water longer to target larger, valuable fish species such as grouper and hump-head wrasse, which are also highly threatened.
Marine activists welcomed the ban.
But there are those who claim spearfishing is a sustainable method, as it only removes the targeted fish and there is no by-catch.
“But if we specify a list of fish not allowed to be speared, will those spearfhishing in our waters adhere to such guidelines? How can we monitor?” asks marine activists. They say a total ban is the solution.
The Director General of the Department of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources, M C L Fernando said the support of the navy and the Coast Guard are needed to enforce the ban.
The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act bans several methods of fishing.
Mr Fernando said the department and the ministry were planning to regulate few other fishing methods, including bottom-trawling.
TNA lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran submitted a bill in Parliament proposing to ban bottom trawling. But some technical issues have surfaced and the bill will be re-drafted and resubmitted by the Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, the Director General of the Fisheries Department, Mr Fernando, said.