News

Severe weather: Fisheries sector impacted

  • Fishermen unable to operate or harvest
  • Seafood exports likely to see a decline

By Maneesha Dullewe

The inclement weather brought on by the recent seasonal monsoon rains has heavily impacted fishing and marine fish harvesters, threatening their livelihoods, The Sunday Morning learnt.

The adverse weather and scarcity of kerosene, which is widely used by coastal fishermen to power their outboard motors, have posed added challenges to the fisheries communities.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation Co-ordinator Anthony Jesudasan stated that the floods resulting from the heavy rains had put many fishermen out of work, with the weather conditions making it difficult for them to engage in their usual fishing activities.

Meanwhile, the flooding had also affected shrimp production in the Kalpitiya, Mundalama, and Puttalam areas, where shrimp ponds were damaged by the floods, and a significant portion of the potential shrimp harvest was wiped off or was washed away, causing huge losses to farmers, he said.

Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL) President Dilan Fernando also echoed Jesudasan’s concerns, stating that the industry was expecting seafood exports to go down in the coming months, at least until January, due to declining fish stocks caused by the bad weather.

“Shrimp farmers and small-scale fishermen are now facing unbearable situations. The floods have massively impacted those who go to sea daily, since damages to fishing vessels as well as strong winds have made it impossible for them to venture out to sea. This disruption to their daily employment has led to a loss of income in the fishing community. Additionally, since shrimp farmers are unable to harvest shrimp from ponds, they are also suffering losses,” Jesudasan explained.

While noting that the extent of damage is not known in terms of precise numerical data yet as the situation is still ongoing, Jesudasan said that as a result of these losses to their livelihoods caused by natural disasters, prawn farmers and fishermen were requesting compensation or relief from the Government. He added: “As we are aware, usually when similar losses are felt by farmers, the Government provides compensation. However, compensation for fishermen is low.”

Even as the bad weather came as a blow to the fishing communities, the cost of fishing has increased. The damage from floods has added to their existing difficulties stemming from fuel price hikes. According to Jesudasan, fishermen were of the opinion that if this series of adverse incidents were to continue, the massive losses would lead to a grave situation that required the attention of the Government.

Addressing the situation, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Fisheries Development Division Director Anura Jayasekara said that the Government’s plans to mitigate the impact of climate-related repercussions on the fisheries industry were already underway, which include awareness programmes for fishermen on how to minimise the losses they face.

Meanwhile, the Department of Meteorology said that they expect a lessening of the rain in the coming days, sharing that they did not predict any significantly disruptive conditions for fishing.