The European Union has suspended the import of fish and fishery products from Sri Lanka effective today (15 January).
Three months before this import ban came into effect the EU allowed Sri Lanka to address the concerns by implementing international maritime law obligations and putting in place an efficient vessel monitoring system and a sanction scheme for deep seas fleets.
Sri Lanka Seafood Association spokesman Channa Weeratunge told www.adaderanabiz.lk that the Department of Fisheries had not taken any steps to avoid this situation within that period and that the association expects the new government to take immediate steps in this regard.
He added that though this suspension is effective from today, the United Kingdom (UK) and Austria have extended the suspension till 15 February 2015.
Weeratunge also said that from 14 January some 1,500 tonnes of fish expected to be exported would be diverted to the local market thus pushing down the fish prices within Sri Lanka. This would cause a loss of around USD 200 million to the country, according to his estimates.
If the government fails to take immediate measures to arrest this situation then, 90 per cent of the 15 companies in Sri Lanka currently engaged in fishery exports would have to close down, said Channa Weeratunge.
The 28-nation European Union’s European Commission proposed a ban on imports of fish from Sri Lanka for not taking steps to combat illegal fishing on the deep seas, thus including Sri Lanka in its ‘Red List’.
Since 2010 the EU has taken action against countries that do not follow international standards to prevent over-fishing, such as allowing their waters for unlicensed fishing vessels and imposing sanctions to ensure that the countries comply with regulations against illegal fishing.
The European Commission said Sri Lanka did not even have proper legislation in place to prevent and fight illegal fishing and this led the Commission to propose the import ban.
Sri Lanka is one of the largest exporters to the European Union of high value fishery products such as swordfish and tuna. EU imports in 2013 amounted to 7,400 tonnes of fish worth 74 million euros (US$94 million), according to the Commission.
The Commission banned fish imports from Cambodia and Guinea over illegal fishing since March last year and also delivered a formal warning to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea in June. A review of these countries’ progress in tackling illegal fishing is expected this month (January 2015).
According to the Commission, fish caught illegally are worth up to 10 billion euros a year.
Source - Ada Derana