June 21, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera today reiterated the Sri Lankan government's continued commitment to the conservation of marine resources and sustainable industries associated with it.
Speaking at the Regional Symposium on Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Blue SDG 14) held today Minister Samaraweera noted that being an island nation, Sri Lanka owes much to its oceans, as it has become indispensable for industries such as fishing, tourism, and maritime transportation.
The regional symposium was organized by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka in co-operation with the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo about "SDG 14 - Life Below Water"
Sri Lanka's fisheries industry comprises close to 2 percent of GDP, contributes value addition of more than USD 1.3 billion, and creates 222,000 direct jobs, supporting more than 191,000 households, according to the Finance Minister.
He said that with the reinstatement of GSP+ in May 2017, there has been a 125 percent increase in seafood exports to the EU in the year 2017. "This has been one of the major success stories of the government's efforts to open up market access for Sri Lankan exporters."
The Minister emphasized that sustainable resource management is essential in order to successfully export into markets such as the EU. It is precisely this type of sustainable export industry that was envisaged in the 2018 Budget, themed "Blue Green Economy: Enterprise Sri Lanka", he said.
Minister Samaraweera mentioned that a number of measures were proposed in the Budget to expand sustainable fisheries. A 50 percent subsidy is given for investing in technology such as refrigerated storage to mitigate post-harvest losses in multi-day boats. Additionally, a 50 percent subsidy is made available to those who purchase multi-day boats to encourage deep sea fishing. Such measures will enable the expansion of supply to cater to growing demand in these markets.
According to the Minister Rs. 2 billion will be spent in upgrading anchorages and landing sites of fishery harbors including those in Chilaw, Mirissa, Karainagar, and Purana Wella. This will help reduce post-harvest losses and enhance overall sustainability of the industry.
He pointed out that it is also important to control Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing. Fishing methods such as mechanized and bottom trawling have a multitude of negative externalities that need to be addressed in a holistic manner through multilateral cooperation.
Reducing marine pollution and mitigating its effects in Sri Lanka has been prioritized in the 2018 budget under the Blue-Green initiatives, and the government of Sri Lanka has allocated close to Rs. 6 billion to implement long-term solutions to reduce and eliminate marine pollution and developing sustainable fishing practices.
The State Minister of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jens Frølich Holte also spoke at the opening of the regional symposium.
Participants from countries from the Bay of Bengal and other stakeholders will discuss challenges and opportunities for sustainable use of the ocean at the two-day reginal symposium in Colombo.