Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category

How researchers co-opted a remote village to save rare fish

July 27, 2014

An attempt by villagers and wildlife enthusiasts to save a rare fish from extinction is a rare ray of hope amid the gloom of the gradual loss of biodiversity.

Last week, ignoring blood-sucking leeches, dozens of volunteers got their hands dirty and pants wet on the muddy banks of the Galapitamada stream, known to be the only habitat of the critically endangered Bandula Barb. They cleaned the stream and planted ketala aquatic plants on the edges of the stream to enhance the breeding habitat and give much-needed protection for this small fish.

Bandula Barb (Pethia Bandula) is one of the rarest and most endangered fish in Sri Lanka as it can only be found in a 2.5km stretch of a small stream in the Kegalle district. Their present count is just over 1000, so the threat to their existence is enormous.The habitat rehabilitation work held last Sunday was organised by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with the assistance of the Toyota Environmental Fund. This two-year project began in 2013 in accordance with the Bandula Barb Recovery Plan drafted by the Sri Lanka Biodiversity Secretariat of Ministry of Environment in 2007, looking into empowering the villagers to conserve the fish as the area is totally outside any protected areas. Habitat enrichment and the introduction of the fish into other habitats are part of this Conservation Plan, being implemented under the guidance of Professor Devaka Weerakoon.

The data on the drastic decline of Bandula Barb emerged through research carried out by Hasula Wickremasinghe in 2003 as part of her MSc research. In 1991, the fish “catch rate” – a technique used to measure fish population – as 15-100 but in 2003 it sank to 0–5. This is an 80 per cent decline of the population. Ms. Wickremasinghe and Sampath Goonathilake, prepared the Bandula Barb recovery plan under the guidance of Prof. Weerakoon.

In May 2013, a total of 598 Bandula Barbs were found. This number increased to 1073 in December that year, raising hopes that the species can recover but more work has to be done to get the population stable, according to experts.

The volunteers of the Aquatic group of the Young Zoologists Association (YZA) were the leading force behind last Sunday’s activities. The team planted native trees along the stream bank together with the participation of the villagers. As the climate in the area is expected to be drier with repercussions of climate change, it is hoped these trees could provide a lifeline to the stream, keeping it from going dry.

This stream in which the Bandula Barb lives flows between paddy fields and rubber estates so the agro-chemicals used in the paddy fields have become the main threat to their survival.

“So the IUCN tried to convince the villagers of the importance of turning to organic farming. We linked them with an organization supporting organic paddy cultivation and we are happy that the paddy fields adjacent to the stream areas turned into organic cultivation areas where agro-chemicals are not used,” said Naalin Perera, IUCN Programme officer, Biodiversity, pointing to the lush paddy fields.

The IUCN also organized a workshop on freshwater fish for the village youths. This included a field visit to Kithulgala to observe the freshwater fish and methods of observation as well as techniques of counting.

The village youths became involved in the counting of number of Bandula Pethia in the stream in a survey conducted in December last year. A total of 1073 fish were recorded, an encouraging result for the conservation team. Mr. Perera also commended the enthusiasm shown by the village youth on learning more details about the freshwater fish.

The IUCN team has also reintroduced a population of Bandula Pethia to an isolated area close to Galapitamada. A wall was built under the project to prevent Bandula Barb being washed into the nearby paddy fields during heavy rains. The IUCN hopes the the effort to save the Bandula Barb from extinction will be successful.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140727/news/how-researchers-co-opted-a-remote-village-to-save-rare-fish-108595.html 

Bandula Barb

The Bandula Barb was discovered in 1991 by Rohan Pethiyagoda. Communicating through email, the expert on fish reveals that he first saw the Bandula Barb in an aquarium at the home of Rodney Jonklaas around 1987. Mr. Jonklass named the fish Bandula Barb because these specimen were given by Ranjith Bandula, an ornamental fish collector.

Mr. Jonklass thought it was a subspecies of the fish we now know as Pethia reval, or that it was a hybrid between Pethia reval and Pethia nigrofasciatus, the so-called Bulath Hapaya. Both those species too, occur in the same Kelani River basin as the Bandula Barb.
However, Mr.Pethiyagoda realised that that this could be a new species and his research with Maurice Kottelat ended in recognising the fish as a valid new species to science. This was later confirmed in 2012 through DNA analysis done by Dr. Madhava Meegaskumbura at Peradeniya University.

Mr. Pethiyagoda said no one knew the reasons for this fish having such a narrow ecological niche. “It is certainly unusual given that there is apparently nothing to prevent the species from dispersing further down the stream,” he added.

‘At first, we were suspicious’

“We are proud to have Bandula Pethia in the village as the fish made our quiet hamlet a famous place. Lots of people and collectors visited our village after getting to know the importance of this fish, but we haven’t allowed anyone to steal the fish,” said Ranjith Amarasiri, a villager who works with the researchers. “Even our children are protective of the fish and don’t allow outsiders to take them out,” Ranjith said, sharing a story of how a village child protested when outsiders tried to take away a specimen of Bandula Barb.

It is the vigilance of the villagers that helped the Bandula Barb to survive through these difficult times where exploitation, invasive species and pollution threatens Sri Lanka’s freshwater fauna.

“When I first visited Gapapitamada in 1987/88 the local people had no idea this fish existed or that it was special,” said Rohan Pethiyagoda who described the fish scientifically.

“They were initially strangers and didn’t say anything to us,” said Sarath Weerakkody, a villager who initially helped to build the link between villagers and conservationists. “When they combed the stream and started to catch fish we grew suspicious. Some youth who became angry and even threw stones at these researchers. But they came and explained to us about the fish and we also began to realise the importance of the fish,” said Mr. Weerakkody.

The effort of the villagers of Elpitiya, Hapudoda and Rabbidigala to prevent the extinction of the Bandula Barb could be a unique conservation model to protect Sri Lanka’s biodiversity.

Ankutta join list of endemic fish

December 16, 2013

Sri Lanka is home to four species of Ankutta or catfish. One, scientifically classified as Mystus keletius, has been identified as a species native to both Sri Lanka and India, but new analysis by Dr. Heok Hee Ng and Rohan Pethiyagoda on this species has confirmed the Sri Lankan species is different from the Indian fish and found only in the streams of this island.

Mr Pethiyagoda said the new species was widespread in both the wet and the dry zones and found in rivers and reservoirs up to an elevation of about 500 metres. The species was described entirely from specimens that had been collected in Sri Lanka in the period 1934-1969 and preserved in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and California Academy of Sciences, which lent them to the researchers for study. Dr. Heok Ng is Asia’s foremost expert on catfish.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/131215/news/ankutta-join-list-of-endemic-fish-76717.html

Researchers gift 3 new endemic fish to Sri Lanka’s biodiversity

December 15, 2013

Santa comes with gifts in the festive season – and this is for all of us: researchers have gifted three new species of fish to add to the already impressive list of freshwater fish in Sri Lanka, strengthening the country’s status as a global biodiversity hotspot. The new species emerge from Halmal Dandiya and Hora Dandiya and have been classified under genus Rasboroides (genus is a categorisation of species that have similar characteristics).

Rasboroides palida

The discovery has come from the island-wide freshwater fish survey carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle (WCSG) and Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Secretariat (BDS). The aim of the survey was to study the prevalence of Sri Lanka’s endemic fish in their “type locations” – the place in which any species is first discovered and scientifically identified. The operation had two objectives: by studying the fish decades after their discovery in the same location allowed scientists to see if any changes had occurred in the intervening period and also to assess their conservation status.

As part of this survey, the endemic Halmal Dandiya or Sri Lanka Golden Rasbora (Rasboroides vaterifloris) discovered in 1930 in Ilukwatte, Gilimale was studied. Researchers also caught Halmal Dandiya from streams in other locations and carefully studied them. A specimen found in Kottawa, near Deniyaya showed characteristics distinct from the fish originally found from Gilimale.

Rasboroides rohani

“This has made us study the fish deeply and we found astonishing differences that encouraged us to carry out further research. This ended up in our separating two new species,” said WCSG President Madura de Silva.

The fish found in Kottawa Kobala forest reserve was named Rasboroides palida for its pallid colour. The other fish, discovered in Sooriyakanda, has been named as Rasboroides rohani to honour Rohan Petiyagoda who has carried out extensive research on Sri Lnka’s freshwater fish.

The research also established the existence of Sri Lanka Blackline Golden Rasbora or Kaluiri Halmaldandiya, scientifically known as Rasboroides nigromaginata. This fish was first identified in 1957 by a German, Meinken, based on specimens he found in his country. He pinpointed the source location of the fish as Sri Lanka, but this species has never before been reported alive in its natural environs.

Rasboroides vaterifloris still found in Gilimale

The discoveries have not ended there. The Horadandiya (Rasboroides atukorali) was declared a fish endemic to Sri Lanka in 1943 but an Indian researcher published a paper in the 1990s claiming that it came from India, so it was taken off Sri Lanka’s list of endemic fish. The research team thoroughly examined the features of both the Indian and Sri Lankan species and concluded that both countries have different species of Horadandiya, which reinstates the fish on Sri Lanka’s list.

The research findings were authored by Sudesh Batuwita, Madura de Silva and Udeni Edirisinghe in the latest edition of the international journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters.

Published on SundayTimes on 15.12.2013 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/131215/news/i-saw-three-fish-come-sailing-in-76713.html

SLN, Fisheries officials hike vigilance against illicit fishing

November 6, 2013

Fisheries authorities and the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) have stepped up action against illegal fishing methods used by local fishermen, officials said. The SLN arrested 89 fishermen off the east coast, for using ‘Hambili del’ or ‘Purse Seine’ nets meant for deep sea fishing.

Navy spokesman, Commander Kosala Waranakulasuriya said the arrests made by Eastern Naval Command’s SLN Dockyard on October 17, was off Chapel Island and Dutch Bay in Trincomalee.

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department Director General Nimal Hettiarachchie said that it is illegal to use these nets within a radius of 7 km offshore, while the mesh size of these nets should also be bigger than 1½ inches. Furthermore, these nets can be used in the deep sea only with a permit from his Dept.

Mr. Hettiarachchie also revealed that fishermen use these Purse Seine nets in the night guided by powerful lights, known as ‘light course’. Both big and small fish attracted to the light, are easily netted which is considered detrimental to the sustainability of fish stocks. Hence, using these purse seine nets at night is illegal. However, illegal ‘light course’ fishing continues in these areas,” Mr Hettiarachchie revealed.

Dynamite fishing too is a major issue, especially off the east coast. Dynamite blasts are reportedly heard even near Trincomalee’s Pigeon Island Marine National Park. The SLN spokesman said they are trying their utmost to curb these illegal activities.

Meanwhile, SLN personnel attached to the North Western Naval Command (NWNC), on information received, arrested two persons with 11.2 kg of turtle meat and 424 turtle eggs, in the general area of Anawasala in Kalpitiya on October 16. Investigations later revealed the meat belonged to a Leatherback Turtle, which is the largest of all turtles that come ashore to lay eggs. The suspects were handed over to Wildlife Conservation officials at Kandakkuliya.

“The SLN’s NWNC has also recovered 2,470 conch shells in the Karadikkuli area on October 9, 2013. The SLN also continues to apprehend Indian fishermen resorting to illegal bottom trawling,” said Cmdr. Warnasuriya.

All these activities highlight the perils that the ocean’s biodiversity is subject to, and the stringent measures taken to sustain its natural resources.

Published on 20.10.2013 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/131020/news/sln-fisheries-officials-hike-vigilance-against-illicit-fishing-66440.html

Raining fish‘n’frogs instead of proverbial cats‘n’dogs

December 24, 2012

Not a sign of doomsday but a tornado/twister sucking aquatic life in its path of destruction and ditching them once powerless – By Malaka Rodrigo

Raining of fish is not a doomsday prophecy, but a normal meteorological phenomenon, experts assured.
‘Fish-rain’ was reported at least from two places in Embilipitiya and Kamburupitiya this week, while a prawn-rain was reported from Tissamaharama on Thursday, raising concern among residents.

The Ruhuna University Agriculture Faculty in Mapalana, Kamburupitiya, experienced ‘fish-rain’. On Monday, a number of small fish were found on the ground and on the roofs of the University’s office premises following a shower.

Officials of Ruhuna University’s Faculty of Fisheries, Marine Sciences & Technology on being informed, rushed to Mapalana to investigate the phenomenon. Faculty Head Ashoka Deepananda who had studied the ‘rain-fish’ and said the specimen he had checked were freshwater fish species Lula (Snake-head fish) and Hunga (Asian Stinging Catfish).

However, fish falling from the sky is not supernatural nor is it a doomsday prediction as some people made out, assures the expert.

Raining fish is a relatively common meteorological phenomenon, with occurrences reported on many instances in the past.

Tornadoes created by violently circulating winds, which suck things in its path, move across a body of water and suck the water into it, creating a water sprout. Fish and other organisms too could be sucked up in these water columns. They can then be carried away by the strong winds and come down to in another place, near or far, along with the rain, making it a ‘fish-rainfall’. If dropped close to its place of extraction, there is the possibility of the fish surviving.

No live fish were found by the Fisheries Faculty team, but Mr. Deepananda confirmed that the fish, though dead, were fresh, indicating that they had died a few hours before. He said the bodies of the fish were crushed and carried external wounds. Mr. Deepananda confirmed that fish samples on investigation showed that the fish had also suffered internal damage.

The expert told the Sunday Times that these kind of wounds are possible when the fish fall from a great height, or also at the time they are sucked into the water column – believed to be by a mini tornado that was experienceed in the area.

A small body of water called ‘Lenabatu wewa’ is located closer to the faculty, but Mr. Deepananda said the fish could have been extracted even from a small stream. Though only specimens of common freshwater fish in the area such as Lula and Magura were found, he believes there could be other fish species too among the species that were sucked up.

Kamburupitiya: “It’s raining fish”. Pic by Krishan Jeevaka Jayaruk

A few weeks ago, similar ‘fish-rain’ was also reported from Kantale. ‘Fish-rain’ was also reported from other parts of the world where even frogs and birds dropped with the rain that came about through the same phenomenon.

In certain instances where frogs fell with the rain, the animals seemed startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behaviour, shortly after the event. It was also reported that, in other instances, the animals were frozen to death or completely enclosed in blocks of ice. These occurrences may be evidence of the thrust of the victims to very high altitudes, where the temperature is below zero, indicating how powerful meteorological forces can be.

Met. Dept Meteorologist Ananda Jayasinharachchi said that tornado-type phenomena are more common during the inter-monsoon period. This can create dense, towering, vertical cloud forming from water vapour carried by powerful upward air currents. The tip of these clouds can get close to land or water bodies, sucking organisms such as fish.

Experts point out that this kind of raining of animals could have occurred in the recent past too, but because people are alert and more observant these days, looking for signs of doomsday, they tend to see these and report.

Published on 23.12.2012 on SundayTimes http://www.sundaytimes.lk/121223/news/raining-fishnfrogs-instead-of-proverbial-catsndogs-25769.html

Fish aggregates at coastal waters – linked with weather changes

October 21, 2012

Last week, this blog reported about mass influx of Dragonflies that usually occurs in this period of time. This week, the fishermen got a bumper harvest from fish aggravate in coastal waters..!! 

Reports from East coast indicated that the fish has come to areas near shore giving bumper harvest

Malu, Malu, Malu: Thousands of fish were washed ashore yesterday due to changes in the weather pattern and the temperature of the seabed. Children and other residents of Beruwala are seen collecting the fish, dead or alive, with experts saying the fish was not harmful for consumption. Pic by S. Siriwardena/SundayTimes

to the fishermen. This is been reported mainly in Kanthamkudi and other areas in Batticaloa, but our correspondents from Beruwala too reported lots of fish been found making it maritime for fishermen.

But this has puzzled general public where many fears it is a sign of an incoming disaster. SundayTimes asked the Oceanography experts to find out the reason for this phenomenon. Dr.K.Arulananthan – the head of National Institute of Oceanography and Maritime Science based at NARA said has been caused due to changing patterns of Oceanic Currents.

Sri Lanka is now experiencing the second Inter Monsoon Rains. According to Dr.Arul, During the South Western Monsoon, the East Indian Coastal current flows from Arabian see toward Bay of Bengal via Southern tip of Sri Lanka. But on the North-western Monsoon; the direction of this East Indian Coastal Current reverse and it happen during the Inter-monsoon season. This brings cold water from Bay of Bengal region and this change of temperature assist growing of Algae and Planktons that leads to algae bloom. Little fish gathers to feed on these microscopic plankton and even big Pelagic fish lives in open seas follows the smaller ones making this present fishing frenzy in many areas, explained Dr.Arul.

The Sardines or Keeramin and Skipjack Tuna are the most notable fish gathered in numbers during past few days. The said phenomena is more applicable for pelagic fish, comments Dr.Arul. The expert also explains another possibility of getting some of the dead fish washed ashore. The Algae is also perform Photosynthesis which consumes the Oxygen in the water. In the waters where Algae bloom, the fish find lack of Oxygen and many dies. Some of these dead fish washed ashore while others sunk deep down to bottom. The decaying bodies of fish at the bottom deplete the Oxygen in that region which affect the bottom dwelling fish like Eel or Ray fishes.

This year Sri Lanka experienced a delayed South West monsoon and perhaps these climatic changes aggravated the differences of the oceanic current to make it more observant. However, Dr.Arulananthan calls it is a normal phenomena and nothing to worry. But the Climate Change may bring more such abnormal changes of weather patterns that leads to phenomenas like this in the future fears the experts.

Many fears that this could be bad omen remembering that just before 2004 Tsunami, loads of fish aggravated in similar manner. Dr.Arul reminding that Tsunami came in December and this phenomenon of changing of East Indian Coastal Current occur during October or November that could have triggered fish aggravation in 2004. He also says the underwater earthquakes might make bottom dwelling fish lives in the deep to migrate to other regions in sea via Oceanic currents, but the fish caught during last few days are not abnormal species, but the common ones usually found in our oceans.

However, it is interesting to know that how the changes of climatic patterns effects the animal behavior as only last week SundayTimes reported about a Dragonfly Migration that follows Inter Tropical Convergence Zone which falls on the same time period across Sri Lanka.

Beruwala too records mass fish death

Meanwhile a large scale of fish deaths was also reported in Beruwala. Hundreds of fish were found dead in a stream called ‘Sellie Ela’ according to NARA sources. This waterway is getting full with water brought in by rain and the nutrients brought in with water increased the algae growth making an algae bloom. Dr.Rekha Maldeniya of NARA said when that the algae emits oxygen during day time when doing photo synthesis and emit carbon dioxide at night while absorbing oxygen in the water. So this deplete the Oxygen in water killing the fish. It is also reported that the water in this ela is now turned into blackish, and Dr.Maldeniya said it is due to died algae. These algae when dead can emit toxics which cause the death of fish. Dr.Maldeniya said these 2 factors were the reason for Beruwala fish death.

Some of these dead fish ended up in the sea.

Climate Change Shrinks Fish Size, Says New Study

A new scientific study shows that Climate Change will shrink the size of fish by 14-24%. This too links to the level of Oxygen in the water where scientists say the increase of temperature will reduce the Oxygen in the water. The researchers have studied change of body size of some 600 species based on models between 2001 and 2050.

The fish stocks around the world are already being depleted due to overfishing. Climate Change due to global warming will also make the ocean acidification that impacts the fish and this study will be another blow. The researchers pointed out that worst impact could be observed in the tropical regions, so countries like Sri Lanka will be expected to be badly effect.

‘Bulathhapaya’ and its clan get new scientific Names

August 26, 2012

Research shows exceptional diversity among popular ornamental fish known as ‘puntius’ – Malaka Rodrigo

Pethia nigrofasciata – Bulath Hapaya

Popular freshwater fish that belonged to the genus Puntiushave been re-classified into 5 new genera by Sri Lankan scientists. The results were published last week in a paper in the journal ‘Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters’, authored by Rohan Pethiyagoda, now attached to the Australian Museum in Sydney, together with Dr Madhava Meegaskumbura and Dr Kalana Maduwage, both of the University of Peradeniya.

A genus (genera in plural) is a grouping of one or several species that possess common characteristics which also denotes by the first part of binomial scientific names. Based on this new analysis, the South Asian fishes formerly in Puntius have been divided into five genera, namely Puntius, Systomus, Dawkinsia, Pethia and Dravidia. While the first four genera have representatives in Sri Lanka, Dravidia (named for the Dravidian people of South India) is restricted to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The filamented-fin barbs have been allocated to a new genus, Dawkinsia, named after the British evolutionary biologist and anti-religion advocate Richard Dawkins, author of the best-seller ‘The selfish gene’. These now include Dawkinsia singhala and Dawkinsia srilankensis. The following four species, meanwhile, have been transferred to the genus Systomus: asoka, martenstyni, pleurotaenia, spilurus (the wet-zone species formerly known as ‘sarana’) and sarana. The bulk of the remaining species have been allocated to a new genus, Pethia, which is also the local Sinhala name for these small fishes. These are Pethia bandula, cumingii, melanomaculata, nigrofasciata and reval. The only Sri Lankan fish that still remain in the genus Puntius are kamalika, vittatus, bimaculatus, thermalis and titteya.

These small freshwater fishes commonly called ‘pethia’ in Sinhala, are also among the most popular inhabitants of tropical aquariums. Many of the 18 species of Sri Lankan Puntius, have for decades been bred by aquarists worldwide and are very popular ornamental fish. These include the ‘bulathhapaya’ (Puntius nigrofasciatus), ‘le titteya’ (Puntius titteya) and Cuming’s Barb (Puntius cumingii). The relationships of such species to Southeast Asian ones such as the Tiger Barb (Puntius tetrazona) have for long been questioned. Could fishes that show such a variety of shapes, sizes and other anatomical characters all belong to a single genus, or have scientists over the years simply been ‘dumping’ new species into Puntius simply for reasons of convenience?

While many have asked the question, few have elected to do a comprehensive study to find answers. The scientists anlysed 31 species of fishes belonging to Puntius from across South Asia using three methods: analysis of DNA, their osteology (a study of their bone structures) and external morphometrics (the proportions of their bodies, the number of scales, etc). The study was by no means easy, they say, and took eight years to complete.

Pethiyagoda explains that there has been a long-felt need to bring the taxonomy of these fishes into line with their evolutionary context. “Attempts to do these using external characters alone over the past several decades have failed. It was time for a multi-pronged approach.” As a result of the species-groups they identified among the Southeast Asian fish formerly in Puntius, it is expected that a cascade of new genera will follow from that region, too.

Being among the most popular ornamental fishes, Sri Lanka Customs’ data show that many of these species are being heavily exported. It is believed that many of them are caught from the wild, which will deplete their wil populations. Loss of quality of riverine habitats suited to them and invasive fish introduced to waterways too, make an impact on their decline. One of the endemic fish that got a new name, Pethia bandula, is confined only to single stream and if this gets contaminated, the entire species could go extinct. So the scientists call for more attention to be paid to the conservation of these fishes.

Published in July.2012

Sri Lanka’s endemic fish peddled around the world with little monitoring

July 26, 2012

Stone Sucker, among others under threat due to high demand for beauty treatments

Freshwater fish, some that have been named only in the recent past are under threat due to over fishing for export, an official warned. Among these fish the stone sucker is the most threatened.

While beautiful fish such as bulath hapaya, le tittaya are in high demand in the aquarium trade, the Stone Suckers have become the most widely exported freshwater fish, Samantha Gunasekara of Sri Lanka Customs’ Biodiversity, Culture and National Heritage Protection Division said during the inaugural session of South Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) last month.

The Stone Sucker (Garra ceylonensis) known as gal padiya in Sinhala is an endemic fish that latches onto ones feet in freshwater habitats. They nibble the skin, giving a ticklish feeling. This is because they feed on the dead tissue of the skin. This natural exfoliation process has created a huge demand for this type of fish in countries such as Hong Kong.

These fish are put into fish spas and are used for popular beauty therapies such as pedicures and manicures. Popularly known as as Dr.Fish; various types of fish including Sri Lanka’s Stone Sucker is peddled around the world. Giving statistics Mr. Gunasekara said in 2005, 62,486 stone suckers and in 2005 50,370 stone suckers had been exported. He said although they still abound in running freshwater streams, if the present trend of over exploitation continued, the Stone Sucker will face the same fate as many other freshwater fish.
According to Mr. Gunasekara freshwater fish are the most widely traded wild species from Sri Lanka.

According to 2007 figures that appear in his recent book ‘Export Trade of Indigenous Freshwater Fishes of Sri Lanka’ wild freshwater fish supply over 98% of the export requirements for the ornamental fish industry. Of the 53 species exported nine species, including seven endemic species are considered nationally threatened. Among the threatened species two of them the Devario pathirana and Macrognathus pentophthalmos are critically endangered. Mr. Gunasekera also pointed out that the revenue earned from the export of endemic freshwater fish amounts to only 0.16% of the income gained in the ornamental fish trade, therefore its destruction is unwarranted even if you look at it purely from the financial aspect for the country.

Garra fish cleaning a foot for free in a stream in Knuckles

Mr. Gunasekera said the Customs’ Biodiversity Protection unit had raided many illicit shipments of freshwater fish being exported. Although there is legislation to regulate the freshwater ornamental fish trade, there are drawbacks in its implementation. He said even the Fisheries Act per se had loopholes, as anyone who got a permit could export freshwater fish.
Another major drawback was the lack of a monitoring body.

Mr. Gunasekera also said inadequate research in the field of aquaculture development has led to a failure in determining suitable captive breeding techniques for endemic freshwater fish species that are in high demand for the export trade.

The Sri Lankan ornamental fish trade makes up 4% of the world supply and environmentalists point out if the country is looking at building this trade more freshwater fish should be bred.

Published on SundayTimes on 22.07.2012 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120722/news/sri-lankas-endemic-fish-peddled-around-the-world-with-little-monitoring-6685.html

Kelawalla near threatened by over-fishing

July 10, 2011

'Kelawalla' at Negombo Fish Market (c) Malaka Rodrigo

Kelawalla (Yellow-fin Tuna) is going to be re-categorized as a ‘Near Threatened’ fish as per the latest evaluation by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Yellow-fin Tuna is currently at the bottom of 7 level Red List threat categories under ‘Least Concern’ which has the lowest risk of Extinction. But the recent evaluation done by IUCN Red List scombrid and billfish species under the guidance of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) has elevated Yellowfin’s threat ranks by one level few days back.

World’s commercially target fish are all in the decline mainly due to unsustainable fishing practices. The results of the recent Red List evaluation show that the situation is particularly serious for tunas. Five of the eight species of tuna are in the threatened or Near Threatened IUCN Red List Categories. One of the species – Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) is Critically Endangered while Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (T. thynnus) categorized as Endangered. These two species however do not inhabit our territorial waters; however Indian Ocean Tuna are neither escapes the perils of over-fishing. The Bigeye Tuna (T. obesus) is categorized Vulnerable while Albacore (T. alalunga) and Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) are categorized under Near Threatened.

“The latest Red List update also underlines the concerns expressed by Indian Ocean Coastal Countries met inColomboearly this year” commented Dr.Hiran Jayawardene referring to the forum convened by the Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Co-operation (IOMAC). The Indian Ocean Coastal countries highlighted that the need of restricting unsustainable fishing practices employed by Distant Water fishing nations such as European Union, Japan and Taiwan. They use large Purse-seine nets which scoop up all big and small fish of the targeted area. To make the matters worst, they also deploy sophisticated Fish Aggregation Device (FAD) which helps them to monitor fish stocks in different parts of the oceans to catch the maximum yield.

Most of the long-lived economically valuable species are considered threatened and a quota system is introduced to control the catch sustainable in many regions. In the case of Indian Ocean Tuna, the quotas are decided by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). IOTC set a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and distribute quotas among fishing nations of the area defining Total Allowable Catch. But these quota systems are also not being followed properly in many cases as it highlights in the case of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna who is now doomed with extinction. Fish experts warn, if sustainable practices are not regulated in this region, the Indian Ocean Tuna too will continue to move to the top ranks of the Extinction categories of Red List.

Another problem delaying the recovery of these fish stocks is that these Tuna fish mature later than short-lived species and their reproductive turnover is longer. As a result, such recovery from population declines takes more time, so IUCN recommends more stringent actions for the Critically Endangered Tunas. “Temporarily shutting down tuna fisheries would only be a part of a much needed recovery programme. In order to prevent illegal fishing, strong deterrents need to be implemented,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director, IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “This new study shows that there is an urgent need for effective management. Scientific findings should not be discarded in order to maintain short-term profit. Marine life and jobs for future generations are both at stake.”

Presently Tuna accounts for more than 42% of Sri Lanka’s total fish catch and 49% of the marine fish catch, amounting to approximately 143,000tons. But like the Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna which has been over fished, the Indian Ocean Tuna species – the Yellow-fin Tuna (Kelawalla), Skipjack (balaya), Big-eye Tuna once common are already started getting rarer due to unsustainable fishing practices. This will also hurt countries likeSri Lanka that exports Tuna, so time has come to look at protecting the Tunas for economic reasons, if not for conservation.

IUCN Red List can be accessed on www.iucnredlist.org. But the information currently on the IUCN Red List for tunas is not the most up-to-date information, where users have to wait until its next update on November 2011. However, those who are interested can view complete Tuna assessments on http://tinyurl.com/6edug2w

‘Aqua Culture is Key to Future Food Security’ – Sri Lanka Fisheries Scientists

Delivering the key note speech of Sri Lanka Association for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (SAFAR), Prof.Sena de Silva said that Aqua culture or Internal Fishery will be a key to Future food security. He pointed out that all the main commercial marine fish like Tuna will be over fished in next decade, if fishing is done unsustainable way and pointed out that it is wise to look at ways to improve inland fishery.

SAFAR is an organization formed by scientists, academics, technologists, developers, and entrepreneurs to address issues related to the fisheries and aquatic resources and associated ecosystems in Sri Lanka. Established in 1994, SAFAR annually conducts a Scientific Session providing a platform to share the scientific information related to fisheries. Its 17th Annual session was held last month at the NARA auditorium. About 30 scientific papers have been presented during the 2 day sessions under the themeAquatic Resources in a Changing World: Present Trends and Future Strategies”.

The key note speech also highlighted that Aqua culture is also can be done in small scale. Though it is projected as a future strategy to make sure stable fish production, inland fishery too will be full of challenges. It is required to select the correct fish that is not a threat to the native fish and the life cycle of these fish should also be inline with the rainfall patterns which are projected to change with the global climate change. Prof.Sena highlighted need of having more research even on change of seasonality to Aqua culture in the face of Climate Change as rainfall pattern could affect breeding of fish species as well as taking the technology to village level including breeding techinues.

The current president of SAFAR, Dr.Sevvandi Jayakody on her presidential address highlighted a need of a novel approach for conservation of marine resources. Taking the example of lagoons, she said an Anthro-centric (people centric) conservational approach is much more practical than Eco-centric conservation approach. She emphasized people can be rallied for conserving resources by targeting a species of use such as prawns. This concept is known as cultural key stone species and winning the willingness to protect the environment for something used and conserving the entire ecosystem through that approach. Taking the example of Tuna, Dr.Sevvandi explained if the Tuna based export trade collapsed due to unsustainable fishery, even those who make cardboard cartons for Tuna will loose there livelihood. So she pointed out it is more practical to project the need to lobby for sustainable fishery with aim to keep the human interest where the species will anyway be protected on final count.

One of the plenary speakers of scientific session, Dr. Chris O’Brien of Bay of Bengal Large Marine ecosystem (BOBLME) project highlighted that theIndian Oceanis bordered to the most populated nations. This has resulted not only the high resource extraction, but also release of lots of pollutants to the ocean that will adversely affect fish and whole ecosystem.

Note: the following articles published on following link has a mix-up, so please treat the above blog post as the correct one..  http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110710/News/nws_12.html
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110710/News/nws_50.html

Lanka a hub for sea horse and sea cucumber smuggling

June 27, 2011

The detection this week by Indian forest officers of a stock of dried sea horses and sea cucumbers meant to be sent to Sri Lanka has underscored the need to strengthen cooperation between the two countries to check over-exploitation of marine species in the region, conservationists said.
The forest officers seized 100 kilograms of sea cucumbers in Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and arrested an Indian fisherman.

In February, the Indian media reported that the Indian Navy seized more than 3.5 tonnes of sea cucumbers loaded into trawlers that were heading to Sri Lanka and in January Tamil Nadu marine police seized 1.5 tonnes of sea cucumbers.

Sea cucumber (also known as sea leech) is a marine creature that lives at the bottom of the seabed with a leathery skin and elongated body that looks like a cucumber. Dried sea cucumbers are used in Chinese medicine and considered a delicacy in East Asia.

Sea cucumber fishing is not banned in Sri Lanka where they can be exported with a permit. The Ruhuna University’s Oceanography Unit head Terney Pradeep Kumara said the sea cucumber industry in the southern coast was being threatened by unregulated fishing.

“In the past because of the security situation in the north and east, sea cucumbers were not overly fished, but with peace dawning there is over fishing,” he said. Mannar, Pallimunai, Gurunagar, Kayts and other areas in Jaffna have become sea cucumber-collecting points threatening the species on the Sri Lankan side.

“Removal of sea cucumbers from the marine ecosystem will have a chain effect,” warned marine naturalist Prasanna Weerakkodi.

The consignment nabbed in Rameshwaram contained 2,509 dried sea horses, the Indian media reported. The seahorse lives on sea grasses and dried seahorses are used in Chinese medicine as an aphrodisiac. Therefore, there is high demand for this species in China, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Sea horse researcher Nishan Perera said there was no particular local market for it. Therefore, he believed Sri Lanka only acted as a transit point for re-export.

But environment lawyer Jagath Gunawardena said he believed that sea horse fishing would increase in Sri Lanka with the rise in demand. He said the capture and sale of sea horse for trade was not a prescribed fishing operation as regulated under section 6 of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act. He said according to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act, sea horses fell within the purview of the Flora and Fauna ordinance where it explicitly says the export of any animal or part of it for any trade is not permitted. He said this indicated there was a clear provision that could put a stop to the sea horse trade.

Published on SundayTimes on 26.06.2011 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110626/News/nws_19.html

Harness aquatic resources while sustaining marine biodiversity- India’s Environ Minister

June 12, 2011

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that Marine Biodiversity is an important natural resource whose conservation is as important as that of the Forests. Speaking on the Gulf of Mannar fishing issue, the minister said that fishermen from both countries should look at the sustainability of these valuable marine resources to avoid over-fishing.

He pointed out the need for regional cooperation on marine issues and said that India funded the establishment of SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (CZMC) to achieve the objective of managing coastal resources for their sustainable use. The minister made these comments at a conference held in New Delhi to mark World Environment Day on June 5.

The region includes some of the most extensive mangrove areas in the Indian Ocean, and some of the world’s least disturbed coral reefs. These coastal ecosystems have been subjected to increasing exploitation, particularly over the last 20 years. CZMC has also arranged a Study Tour in collaboration with the Coast Conservation Department of Sri Lanka in April.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Fisheries- Rajitha Senaratne said that, his ministry aims at new mechanisms and methods to stop trawling in the Northern seas. A one-month period started from May 15, is considered as the fish breeding period, and fishermen, traditionally, avoid fishing in this part of the ocean. So the ministry aims at placing some barriers at strategic locations to stop destructive fishing methods. This year’s Ocean’s Day too was celebrated last week on June 8, and the minister’s message emphasised the ministry’s commitment to ensure the sustainable use of our aquatic resources.

Published on SundayTimes on 12.06.2011 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110612/News/nws_28.html

Bottom Trawling: Not just political ripples but conservation too

April 24, 2011

Bottom Trawling in Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar could destroy marine habitat on ocean floor – by Malaka Rodrigo  

Illicit poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lanka’s northern seas has already caused some social and diplomatic ripples, but marine experts point out that it could also become a conservation issue.

Addressing a public forum on Palk Bay Fisheries, Dr.Terney Pradeep Kumara of Ruhuna University’s Department of Oceanography and Marine Geology, claimed, that the Bottom Trawling method of fishing used by Indian fishermen could be harmful to marine habitats on the ocean floor. Bottom trawling is trawling (towing a trawl, which is a fishing net) along the sea floor.

In this method two heavy metal panels are fixed at both sides of the mouth of the Bottom Trawling net to make sure that it remains at the bottom of the sea floor.

The main target area of the Indian fishermen is the Palk Bay which is bounded on the north and west by the coastline of the State of Tamil Nadu and the east by the northeast coastline and the Jaffna peninsula of Sri Lanka.

These metal panels resemble Cow-catchers that are fixed to the front of trains and are meant for the same purpose–to break through anything that blocks its way. Indian fishermen are also poaching in the Gulf of Mannar and the bottom of the ocean of both the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay are rich in coral and seaweed. Bottom trawling nets can break these corals and destroy the sea grasses that are attractive marine habitats. “Once destroyed, corals may take years to recover, so it will directly affect our marine biodiversity,” Dr.Terney warned.

This method of fishing is used mainly to catch creatures like prawns and demersal fish like groupers that roam near the water column just above the seabed. Over the years both Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen fished in these areas mainly targeting finfish and chank resources.

But a report published in a journal of the National Aquatic Resources Development Agency (NARA) points out in the 1960s fishing fleets started targeting shrimp resources abundant in these areas due to its high demand. Since then both groups focused more on shrimp resources and found that bottom trawling was preferable to prawn harvesting.

This has resulted in the increase in the number of motor trawlers fishing in the area. This unsustainable fishing practice has fast depleted the fish stocks on the Indian side of the Bay. Therefore the number of Indian fishing vessels crossing the boundary line and entering Sri Lankan waters has also rapidly increased since the 1970s.

Sea Cucumbers and Pearl Oysters are also the targets of Bottom Trawling. Dr.Terney pointed out that the seas around Mannar and Palk Bay are famous for Pearl Oysters and Sri Lanka could lose the economic benefits of this harvest because of the encroaching Indian fishermen. There is high demand for Sea Cucumbers in East Asia where it is a delicacy.

The unsustainable collection has already depleted the Sea Cucumber populations in southern Sri Lanka and if bottom-trawling continues they will fast disappear in the northern seas too. The problem with most of these invertebrates unlike fish that mature fast to lay thousands of eggs, is that they are slow breeders. The problem would be further compounded if this method of fishing continues in shallow waters Dr.Terney said adding that the Indian fishermen are now bold enough to poach as close as 500m away from our shores.

However, the by-catch of Bottom-trawling is what could suffer the most. Endangered marine turtles and other creatures that do not have a commercial value are unavoidable by-catch victims of Bottom Trawling. When the net drags, it also disturbs the underwater sediments and thousands of little creatures that find refuge in the soft sands are exposed to predators.

Recent satellite images that were published in the media showed the extent of the mud and sedimentation trails caused by Bottom Trawling in deep sea. International conservation organizations like GreenPeace are known to place large rocks on strategic locations of the ocean to block Bottom Trawling in high seas in many areas.

“Operating a Bottom-trawling underwater is like running a bulldozer across the Sinharaja Rainforest,” said Nishan Perera –Marine Biologist specializing in fish. The Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar record one of the richest Biological Diversity in the Indian Ocean which is 20% of Indian Ocean creatures.  The Palk Bay, located between the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Mannar is home to 580 fish species, 733 molluscs, 651 crustaceans and 128 species of stony corals.

Zoologists claim that the Gulf of Mannar is home to over 3,600 species. The five endangered marine turtles also inhabit this area and can get entangled in these nets easily while feeding on the sea grasses at the bottom. The Indian side of the Gulf of Mannar has already been declared as a Man and Biosphere (MAB) Reserve by UNESCO.

Environmental Lawyer Jagath Gunawardene said Bottom Trawling has been banned in Sri Lanka. He said regulations were brought in 1996 November under the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act.

Plenty more fish in the sea? Not for much long, says IUCN

Most of us assume that the ocean abounds with fish and is an unlimited natural resource. But a report releasd by IUCN (the International Union of Conservation of Nature) this week, warns that many marine fish could disappear.

According to a study done for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species on the status of marine fish in the Mediterranean Sea, the IUCN revealed that more than 40 species of marine fish currently found in the region could disappear in the next few years.

Published on SundayTimes on 24.04.2011 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110424/News/nws_20.html

Lanka takes a stand on tuna fishing in Indian Ocean

March 22, 2011

After years of playing a passive role, Sri Lanka is taking a stand on tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean, and pressing for its rights to a fair share of Indian Ocean tuna. According to Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne, Sri Lanka will be actively pursuing its rights to Indian Ocean fishing. “We were somewhat inactive over the last few years, not voicing our needs at international forums on fishing. But now Sri Lanka will be vigilant and fight for a fair distribution of Indian Ocean tuna,” the Minister said.

Dr.Hiran Jayewardene – head of IOTC SL delegation with Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne

The 15th sessions of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) are in progress at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. Sessions began on March 14 and continue till Tuesday (22nd). The IOTC participants are Indian Ocean countries and distant water fishing nations, including European Union nations, and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. All these countries fish in the Indian Ocean, and are allocated fishing quotas by the IOTC.

The IOTC is an inter-government body, set up under the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), that confers on matters relating to Indian Ocean Tuna and like fish species.

High on the agenda are discussions on unsustainable fishing practices that are seriously depleting tuna species, such as the Yellow-fin Tuna (kelawalla) and the Skipjack Tuna (balaya). The risk of extinction is high, experts say, if current fishing practices were allowed to continue unchecked.
The developed distant water fishing countries use purse-seine nets to catch entire shoals of tuna, including young fish. This unsustainable practice leaves no room for young fish to survive and spawn future generations of tuna.

The developed fishing nations also use Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) for locating and snaring extra large shoals of fish, a practice that has already threatened the survival of the Atlantic Ocean’s Blue-fin Tuna. Fisheries experts are worried the same could happen in the Indian Ocean.

Tuna accounts for around 143,000 tons, or more than 42 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total fish catch, and 49 per cent of the country’s marine fish catch.

Sri Lanka has been involved in tuna management since the early ’80s. The country initiated the forming of a coalition of coastal nations to protect their fishing rights. The Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Cooperation (IOMAC), representing 17 coastal countries, met in Sri Lanka in February. Key IOMAC concerns are on the agenda at the ongoing sessions.

Related Story in PLUS Section : Our Kelawalla and Balaya are in deep trouble

Published on SundayTimes on 20.03.2011 http://sundaytimes.lk/110320/News/nws_20.html

Our Kelawalla and Balaya in deep trouble

March 20, 2011
Sri Lanka joins coastal countries in lobbying against unsustainable fishery practices by industrial nations at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) sessions in Colombo this week – By Malaka Rodrigo “The sea was a battle field. Balaya were even banging against the sides of the boat. They fought for the bait like a pack of dogs for bones or like bats around a fruit tree… The noise was that of huge bellows at work together with a violent slapping sound as if people were thrashing about wildly in the water. The fishermen held their rods against their hips with one hand and threw their lines into the water with the other. They had hardly thrown in their lines when they were pulling away the rods, for the balaya were leaping for the bait. And so they went on throwing and jerking back their lines, a balaya falling into the boat with each pull” 

…this is the experience of the little boy Upali Giniwelle of Madol Duwa as written by the famous author Martin Wickremasinghe in 1947. Upali was with fishermen who were obviously fishing in coastal waters at the time they meet this rich Tuna shoal. But if his grandchildren want to experience the same today, they would now have to go deeper into the sea as the tuna in coastal waters is depleted. Fish experts warn that the Indian Ocean Tuna will soon become scarce even in deep waters due to unsustainable industrial fishing practices.

This dilemma started in the 1980s as industrial fishing fleets started moving to the Indian Ocean. Upto then the fishing was done only by the coastal fishing nations using traditional methods such as ‘pole-and-line’ to catch tuna as accurately described in Madol Duwa. This is a large ‘bili pitta’ made of a rigid pole of 2 to 3 m traditionally made out of a bamboo (and now sometimes in fibreglass) and a strong short line at the end of which hangs a feathered jig mounted on a barbless hook. The pole is held by a fisherman standing up. The baits are spread on sea around the boat. As soon a fish takes the bait, the fisherman lifts the pole to bring the fish up. The hook is not barbed, so as soon as the fish hits the deck, and opens its mouth releasing the hook, the fisherman can put it back into the water. This is still the practice in many coastal countries and the large boats facilitates about 10 – 20 fishermen with poles fishing simultaneously.

Colombo sized Purse-seines

Plenty of fish in a shoal get a chance to escape in this traditional method to carry on their breeding, but industrial fishing fleets use a different technique that catch the whole shoal containing tons of fish in one go. They use purse-seine nets made of a long wall of netting framed with floatline and leadline and having purse rings hanging from the lower edge of the gear, through which runs a purse line made from steel wire or rope which allow the pursing of the net. The most efficient gear for catching large and small pelagic shoals, this is also the most unsustainable.

Purse-seines capture all big and small fish in a particular fish school, not sparing enough fish to spawn in future. Purse-seine nets also have unwanted by-catch, becoming death traps for other marine life such as dolphins, turtles etc.

A Purse-seine net with tons of fish

“This is like while we are catching fish in a pond by hand, someone comes by force with a net and catches all the fish in the same pond. The bare-handed fishermen will soon left nothing to catch,” complained the Maldivian Fisheries Minister who was in Sri Lanka attending the Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Corporation (IOMAC) conference last month.

Industrialized nations have recently started employing another deadly method to locate the most rich tuna grounds. Traditionally, the fishermen used visual spotting looking for aggregations of sea birds or the behaviour of fish species coming to the sea surface to locate the tuna shoals. With technological developments, the vessels began using acoustic instruments such as echo-sounders and now artificial fish aggregating devices(FAD) in the sea.

Fish in the open ocean usually gather around floating objects like logs, and these industrialized fishing fleets set up several FAD in the target area, fixed with electronic devices that can accurately measure the size of the fish school. These transmit these details to the mother vessel through satellites. A purse-seiner usually employs 75-100 such FADs in the target area, to monitor which FAD has the best aggregation of fish and move toward it removing the largest tuna shoal in the area.

The Blue-fin Tuna in the Atlantic Ocean is now doomed to extinction due to these unsustainable fishing practices. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, (IOTC) is an intergovernmental body set up mainly to evaluate the tuna population in the Indian Ocean and decide on the annual maximum allowable catch.

Each country is then allocated a quota. IOTC consists of both Indian Ocean coastal countries and Industrialized Fishing Nations. But though the priority should be given to the Indian Ocean coastal countries, there are claims that IOTC allocates quotas in a way to benefit the industrialized nations.
“But this is also due to the unorganized manner of Coastal Nations in the IOTC which results in them not gaining the maximum benefits. It is time we should join to make a common voice in the IOTC,” said Dr. Rajitha Senaratne addressing a meeting of Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Corporation (IOMAC) in Colombo in February to agree on a common stance for Indian Ocean Coastal countries at IOTC debates.

IOMAC was set up in the early 1980s in Sri Lanka to raise the need to regulate fishing practices. The IOMAC meeting held in February with participation of Fisheries Ministers and high-level delegates of Thailand, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Kenya, Iran, Indonesia and Bangladesh agreed on seven common issues, which was an important milestone according to IOMAC Secretary General Dr. Hiran Jayawardene.

IOTC’s Tuna Quota Sessions prior to its main meeting in March in Sri Lanka was held in Nairobi, Kenya in February. Taking up the initiative set up during the IOMAC meeting, 16 Indian Ocean coastal countries moved against the proposals submitted by Seychelles that were in favour of the industrialised nations. According to this, Sri Lanka would get only 300 metric tons of tuna though our annual catch at present is much more. “If this gets adopted, the Kelawalla and Balaya will also disappear from the ‘malu lella’ around the country, said Dr. Jayawardene who instrumented lobbying against the move successfully.

“We managed to win the support of 17 like-minded coastal nations to lobby to counter the European threat to Indian Ocean Tuna. EU countries catch about 50% of Indian Ocean tuna now for more than 30 years and this will leave very little for the coastal countries who are already struggling with a nutritional deficit,” said Dr. Jayawardene who headed the team in Kenya.

It is reported that the IOTC decided to postpone the allocation of tuna quotas among member countries by another three years upon the protests of the coastal countries led by Sri Lanka.

The 15th IOTC Meeting in Colombo

Sri Lanka is currently hosting the 15th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission from March 14 to 22. Representatives of coastal countries as well as distant fishing nations such as EU, Japan, Korea, France, Taiwan, and China are also attending the meeting.

The head of Sri Lankan delegation Dr. Hiran Jayawardene said that there is a clear polarization between the distant fishing nations and the recently formed Coastal Countries alliance established as part of IOMAC led by Sri Lanka. “However it is a very healthy atmosphere and the willingness of both groups to work together for sustainability of Tuna fishery is encouraging,” said Dr. Jayawardene.

Published on SundayTimes on 20.03.2011 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110320/Plus/plus_20.html