Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Fisheries, Piyal Nishantha, has announced a groundbreaking initiative to establish a specialized investment zone in the Northern Province, catering exclusively to the fishing industry. This strategic move is designed to attract investments that will stimulate economic growth and create numerous employment opportunities for the region’s residents.
In a recent press briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) under the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country,’ Minister Piyal Nishantha highlighted proactive measures already in motion to combat the fishing mafia, a network of middlemen who have profited unfairly at the expense of both the fishing industry and consumers.
The Minister explained, “In the past, the Fishery Corporation procured sailfish through suppliers, subsequently distributing imported fish. However, the Corporation later transitioned to direct imports through legitimate channels, yielding significant profits. This transformation disrupted the monopolistic control exercised by a select group of suppliers and intermediaries to some extent.”
“However, it is essential to recognize that breaking this monopoly posed considerable challenges. Attempts were made to obstruct our efforts, even from within the corporation itself. As a consequence, fishermen, consumers, and the Corporation incurred substantial losses. Despite these difficulties, we remain committed to curbing this exploitative network.”
Minister Piyal Nishantha provided some striking figures, stating, “For instance, the Fishery Corporation previously procured a kilogram of sailfish from local suppliers at a price of Rs 1,750. But when importing sailfish directly, one kilo can be bought for Rs. 1,250. With a monthly requirement exceeding 50,000 tons, it is unsurprising that the corporation incurred losses.”
“It is crucial to emphasize that this import of fish is a temporary measure. Our primary objective is to facilitate the Fishery Corporation’s progress in collaboration with Sri Lankan fishermen, ensuring the delivery of quality and dependable seafood to our valued customers.”
Simultaneously, preparations are in progress to establish a dedicated investment zone for the fishing industry in the Northern Province, welcoming investments linked to the fisheries sector into Sri Lanka and generating employment opportunities for a substantial workforce.
To coincide with this year’s World Fisheries Day, a series of programs will be held from November 19 to 21, with a specific focus on the Northern Province, led by the Jaffna district.
In the Jaffna district, services provided by agencies affiliated with the Ministry of Fisheries, such as mobile fishing services, issuance of fishing ID cards, registration of fishing boats, and resolution of communication issues concerning fishing signals, will take center stage. Solutions will be delivered to these challenges directly within the local communities.
Additionally, a testing center affiliated with the NARA Institute is set to be established in the Kilinochchi district. Plans are in place to release small fish into lakes, rivers, and reservoirs within the Province, particularly the Iranamadu Reservoir. This move aligns with the commitment to expand fish harvest areas for multi-day fishing vessels through the introduction of a new FAD machine.
Promoting the freshwater fishing industry remains a priority, marked by the distribution of approximately 54 million small fish into freshwater reservoirs nationwide.
Significant emphasis is also placed on projects with the potential to enhance foreign exchange earnings, including seaweed cultivation and sea leech breeding.
Under the aid of the Chinese government, a program to provide kerosene subsidies for one-day fishing vessels is being implemented for the second time. A total of 4,250,000 liters of kerosene will be distributed among 28,000 fishermen, equating to 153 liters of kerosene per fisherman.
To foster cooperation among the officials of the Ministry of Fisheries and affiliated institutions, plans are underway to conduct a volleyball tournament and an ‘inter-school drawing competition.’