Aug 28, 2020 (LBO) - President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says plans should be mooted from several directions to reduce the foreign exchange spent annual on fish import.
The Government annually spends around USD 500 million on importing fish, dry fish, maldive fish and canned fish. The contribution of the fishing industry to Gross Domestic Product stands at 1%. President emphasized that the fishing industry in the country should be placed among exports that earn foreign exchange by harnessing the fishing potential along the coastal belt around the country and the inland tank network.
President made these remarks during a meeting to discuss future activities of the State Ministry of Ornamental Fish, Freshwater Fish and Shrimp Farming Development, Multi-day Fishing and Fish Export held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (27).
The contribution of locally bred freshwater fish and seawater fish to the total export of ornamental fish is 95% and 98% respectively. The ornamental fish traders highlighted the possibility of exporting around 700 varieties. Breeding and exporting endemic fish to earn more foreign exchange was discussed during the meeting.
President instructed the officials to explore the possibility of easing existing barriers to re-export aquatic plants after cultivating them locally.
There are around 18,000 inland tanks in the country. The number of tanks used for freshwater fishing is only around 1500. Head of the Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival Basil Rajapaksa said the protein requirement in rural areas can be met by identifying tanks that are suitable for freshwater fish cultivation.
It has been planned to release 90,000 freshwater fish fingerlings in order to promote freshwater fishing.
The need to build multi-day trawlers with freezers and sanitation facilities and to provide vocational training to fishermen was also discussed.
It was revealed that the Fisheries Corporation is in a severe financial crisis as that has resulted in its inability to provide required services to fishermen or vessels.
Those who are engaged in the sector said that high freezers in working condition have been leased to the private sector for as long as 33 years during the previous administration.
They say it was aimed at disrupting the fishing industry.
When producing dry fish, only the fish that are not available within the country should be imported, President said.
Plans are underway to place discarded railway carriages, buses and fishing vessels at the bottom of the seabed at 172 identified locations to establish artificial breeding centers in order to promote fishing harvest within sea limits.
President instructed the officials to meet the demand for canned fish production locally.
Ships should be built domestically to assist the fishermen and fishing industry.
State Minister Kanchana Wijesekara, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Secretaries to Cabinet and State Ministries, manufactures and businessmen related to the fishing sector were also present.