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Govt. welcomes TNA bill to ban bottom trawling

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The Government has welcomed a Private Member’s Bill presented by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran to ban mechanized bottom trawling in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

Speaking on the issue, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Mahinda Amaraweera said while there was already legislation in place on bottom trawling, the government has no issue with the bill presented by the TNA MP proposing to prohibit mechanized bottom trawling in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

“There is no question that bottom trawling is an extremely destructive practice that causes irreparable damage to the marine environment. As such, any proposal brought to strengthen legislation against it will be seriously considered,” the Minister told The Nation.

The minister also said currently, 25 Indian fishermen were in custody for illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters after crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and for using banned fishing methods.

TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said 90% of the ‘catch’ from bottom trawling is thrown back into the sea. “Less than 10% is actually taken in the end. The trawlers dig through the seabed indiscriminately catching all organisms in its path. The seabed is destroyed, including valuable coral reefs,” he explained.

Noting the practice used by Indian fishermen was also creating serious livelihood issues for Sri Lankan fishermen in the North, Sumanthiran pointed out the mechanized bottom trawling method was not a sustainable one. Fishermen’s societies in the North have also asked for such a ban, he further said.

The Bill calls for the amendment of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act, No. 2 of 1996. If it is implemented, deep sea trawling will be banned and will be considered an offence. The offender will be sentenced to a two year prison term and will have to pay a fine of Rs.50,000. Sumanthiran said he expected the bill to be gazetted soon and will be taken up when Parliament reconvenes. 

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