FIP for tuna and billfish, more focus on IUU from Sri Lanka

Published on
May 4, 2017

The Seafood Exporters Association of Sri Lanka and the country’s Ministry of Fisheries jointly announced the creation of a fisheries improvement project (FIP) for its tuna and billfish fisheries last week at the 2017 Seafood Expo Global.

Prabash Subasinghe, chairman of the Sri Lanka Seafood Exporters’ Association, said the FIP will be led by his association and implemented as a tripartite initiative that will bring together Sri Lanka’s leading tuna and billfish exporters, officers and staff of key agencies  and authorities under the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and longline tuna-fishing vessel owners. It will be managed by an external consultant and will be set up with the goal of applying for and obtaining Marine Stewardship Council certification for the fisheries in coming years, he said.

“We will work together to improve the biological and ecological status of tuna and billfish fisheries and introduce and implement management measures that will maintain the status of these stocks equivalent to substantially managed fisheries,” Subasinghe said.

The FIP will pertain to Sri Lanka’s catch of yellowfin and bigeye tuna, as well as swordfish – Sri Lanka’s primary billfish catch, Subasinghe said. He identified the key areas the FIP would initially work to improve as the methods to reduce of catch of non-target species, the introduction of harvest control strategy and related policy formulation and the implementation of tuna and billfish catch policies at the national and international levels. He said he expected these first steps to be in place by next year.

In May, the FIP will take its first official actions, as it initiates series of consultations and workshops in Sri Lanka, Subasinghe said. 

“The workshops will provide an opportunity for keys stakeholders to review the current status of the fisheries against the Marine Stewardship Council’s [current] standards,” he said.

Subasingha said the country’s recent experience working with the European Commission to rid itself of an economically damaging red card it received in 2015 will be helpful in steering the FIP forward. 

“We have a very strong foundation of experience working with the European Union and what we have had to do over the last few years, so we feel the timing is excellence to launch the FIP to strengthen the management of our fishery,” Subasinghe said. “It’s a domestically led effort in Sri Lanka but we are inviting all our partners overseas to support us in the effort, as well as our customers and retailers.”

The FIP and eventually the possibility of MSC certification will “absolutely” strengthen the market for Sri Lankan seafood products abroad, Subasinghe said. He also predicted the European Union’s granting of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP+) status to Sri Lanka by the end of May , which would eliminate tariffs of Sri Lankan goods entering the European market, would also boost the country’s seafood exports.

In a related announcement, Rodney M. Perera, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the E.U., said his country is continuing to take efforts against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Sri Lankan waters. The country recently received EUR 240,000 (USD ) from the United Nations’ FAO to raise awareness of international law in regard to IUU among Sri Lankan fishers and regulators. 

In previous years, Sri Lanka has opened 12 new harbor offices, hired 147 dedicated high-seas fisheries unit officers, required the installation of vessel monitoring system (VMS) units in all 3,600 Sri Lankan vessels permitted to fish on the high seas in its exclusive economic zone, and has instituted an e-log book system, among many other improvements made in response to the European Commission yellow card, ? said.

Incursions by Indian trawlers into the Palk Bay, which is controlled by Sri Lanka, have lessened recently, but negotiations are “ongoing at the highest level” regarding the issue, according to Perera.

“The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka met the Prime Minister of India in New Delhi [recently]…and one of the important items of discussion discover best way forward,” Perera said. “It’s an issue we have been working on for a long time, and it got more complicated during civil conflict in Sri Lanka. Now there is a better understanding between the two countries and more lines of communications between Sri Lanka and the government of Tamil Nadu to try to legally settle some of the disagreements, and the two governments are now working on a framework to see how best we can cooperate on this issue.”

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