By Waruni Paranagamage
Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday revealed that the country incurs a $ 100 m annual loss due to the ban on fish exports by the European Union.
Addressing the media, Amaraweera said that the EU market used to buy 68% of Sri Lankan fish exports and Sri Lanka was still placed as the second largest tuna exporter to the region.
“By the end of this year, hopefully we could get the ban lifted by the EU. The EU has made some recommendations to Sri Lanka to re-enter the market. Establishing a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) was a significant recommendation,” the Minster said.
The European Commission announced a ban on imports of fisheries products from Sri Lanka from 1 January for failure to tackle illegal fishing.
The Minister said the new system would monitor the activities of the trawler boats and curb illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
The VMS system is a satellite-based monitoring system which at regular intervals provides data to the fisheries authorities on the location, course and speed of vessels.
According to the Central Bank report of 2014, Sri Lanka has earned $ 252.7 million from seafood exports. However, earnings have declined by 36.5% in March 2015 caused by the 77.6% decline in seafood exports to the EU market.
The Minister said they had already implemented a plan to overcome the EU ban by the end of this year.
“I have taken action in Parliament to amend the Fisheries Act to make it applicable with international law. We expect to develop the act by adding new systems and filing cases against illegal fishing,” Minister added.
Under the new plan the Government also hopes to maintain a boat searching centre system and deploy officers at the searching centres.
Meanwhile, due to the restrictions of the EU ban, Grade ‘B’ fish production also has to sell at the local market Grade ‘C’ consumption price.
The remaining 32% from overall seafood exports which levelled as Grade ‘A’ is still exported to the United States and Japan at a high price.