By Harsha Udayakantha Peiris
The inauguration of the Fish Landing Centre facilities at Epamulla-Sagarasirigama in Ja-ela and Palangathurai in Negombo, Thaldeka and Kadawatha South in Wennapuwa, Moderawella in Marawila, Ambakandawila in Chilaw; and Mampuriya and Echchankaduwa in Puttlam took place on 28 and 30 June 2011 under the initiative of Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, accompanied by Pierre Heroux, Counsellor (Development) at the Canadian High Commission and Calvin Piggott, Acting Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Expressing his views at the inauguration the Minister stated that the facilities provided were of immense benefit to the fishing communities and the Ministry expected the communities to manage these facilities in line with the business plans that had been developed with support from the project. “The people and Government of Canada have contributed generously in the development of the fisheries livelihoods of the people of Sri Lanka and I hope these contributions will uplift the lives of the people to assist in becoming a more equitable, peaceful, and a prosperous nation,” the Minister said.
The project, Restoration and Improvement of Fish Landing Centres with Stakeholder Participation in Management received a grant assistance of US$ 4.9 million from the Canadian Government to develop and improve common facilities at 40 fish landing centres in 13 Fisheries Districts, that include Tangalle, Matara, Galle, Kalutara, Colombo, Negombo, Chilaw, Puttalam, Kalmunai, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Mannar, further assisting the post-war socio-economic development in the country.
The project which is of international standards is implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) through the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MFARD). It also aims at the development of 40 small fish landing centres island-wide while the construction of an office complex for the Department of Fisheries in Mullaitivu District will also be facilitated. The majority of the national fleet of small fishing boats, which exceeds 40,000, is dependent on over 800 fish landing centres throughout the country.
Compared to the production by offshore boats of 129,000 metric tonnes of fish using 4,500 Multi-day and Day-boats operating from 17 fisheries harbours, the production of fish from coastal waters of Sri Lanka reached nearly 202,000 metric tonnes during the year 2010.
Dr. Damitha de Zoysa, Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development expressing views on the implementation said that the Fish Landing Centres would be fully fledged constructions with fuel storage, engine storage, net mending halls, water and sanitary facilities. “The Ministry has recognised the benefits of the inshore fisheries sector to the national economy and to food security. The need to assist the large number of fishing communities operating small fishing craft with adequate common landing site facilities is therefore imperative. This project fulfils an important role in this regard. The MFARD and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have played a crucial role in identifying the needs of the fishing communities being supported by the project,” she said.
Palitha Muthukuda, Community Participation in Fisheries Expert of the CIDA funded Project of Restoration and Improvement of Fish Landing Centres with Stake Holder Participation in Management Implemented by FAO of the UN and Executed by the MFARD, said that the whole project is implemented under three exclusive components and that includes strengthening of the two agencies of Ceylon Fisheries Harbours Corporation and the Department of Fisheries with training, equipment and motor-cycles, construction and improvement of common facilities available in 40 fish landing centres in the 13 fisheries districts that come under the project and strengthening the fisheries community based organisations with training and equipment. He also said that the entire project is due to reach completion in September this year.
The landing centres recently opened are the culmination of over two years of work, started in March 2009. Several similar sites in Trincomalee and other districts are also scheduled to be opened throughout the country in the coming weeks. By the time the project is completed in September 2011 it will have contributed to the livelihoods of over 15,000 coastal fishing families island-wide. The project has also adopted a participatory approach to strengthen the capacity of fishing communities aimed at sustainable management of the facilities provided which has involved the preparation of business plans by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry for the fisheries community organisations as well as the delivery of training in operations and maintenance, micro-finance, fish handling, safety at sea and the supply of small equipment for the efficient and sustainable operations of the new landing centres.