Pigeon Island National Park illegal shark fishing under probe

By Pamodi Waravita 

The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department has begun an investigation into recent allegations of illegal shark fishing in the Pigeon Island National Park.

The Pigeon Island National Park is one of the two such marine National Parks in the country.

The Ornamental Fish, Inland Fish and Prawn Farming, Fishery Harbour Development, Multi Day Fishing Activities and Fish Exports State Ministry told The Morning that the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department has started an investigation following a social media post that shows captured sharks in a boat allegedly close to the Pigeon Island National Park. 

“Officers of the Department will visit Trincomalee and investigate the allegations made on illegal shark fishing. Once the initial investigations are concluded, legal action will be taken against those responsible,” stated Ornamental Fish, Inland Fish and Prawn Farming, Fishery Harbour Development, Multi Day Fishing Activities and Fish Exports State Minister Kanchana Wijesekera on Twitter on 13 October. 

Meanwhile, environmentalists claim that the decrease in tourism has led to increased dynamite fishing (using explosives to target fish) in marine environments around the country, which is in turn harming many animal species. 

“Around 2.5 km outward of the Pigeon Island is a buffer zone. If the allegations are true – that the shark fishing had occurred inside this protected area – then that is a crime. Fishermen cannot engage in commercial fishing eight km outward of the buffer zone. In addition to this report, throughout the year, we have been receiving reports of increased dynamite fishing which severely harms reefs and ecosystems that are present in those areas. We believe that this increased dynamite fishing is due to less tourism and less monitoring mechanisms as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” The Pearl Protectors organisation Environmental Conservation Co-ordinator Muditha Katuwawala told The Morning

Commenting on the matter, Wildlife Conservation Department (DWC) officials told The Morning that they have received reports of dynamite fishing, especially in the Kalpitiya region in the Puttalam District. 

“We are working with the Navy to increase our monitoring in these areas,” said the DWC officials. 

The Shark Fisheries Management (High Seas) Regulations of 2015 prohibits the capture of the Thresher shark, the Big Eye Thresher shark, the Pelagic Thresher shark, the Oceanic White Tip shark, and the Whale shark. The Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance of 1993 prohibits fishing and the extraction of other natural resources at marine parks such as the one at Pigeon Island.