By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s shrimp and aquaculture industry is brimming with success as a passport to strong economic growth and widespread employment although it causes severe environmental damage, informed sources revealed.
Just outside the world’s top ten producers, it accounts for approximately 50% of the total export earnings from Sri Lankan fisheries. More than 90% of the harvested cultured prawns are exported, going mostly to Japan.
Yet the picture is decidedly mixed on a closer inspection. The country saw an explosion of unregulated aquaculture on the island, bringing riches to a few and the hope of riches or at least an income to many more.
But poor coastal management also brought white spot syndrome virus, a virulent disease that spreads in water and on the feet of birds, and can kill all the prawns in a pond in under a week.
After a recent field study found that a majority of shrimp and aquaculture farms across the country have failed to comply with environmental regulations, fisheries ministry announced.
The Fisheries Ministry directed relevant government agencies, the National Aquatic Culture Development Authority (NAQDA) and the National Aquatic Resources Development and Research Agency (NARA) to take immediate legal action against those farms.
“Take legal action against all the shrimp farms in Mannar and Chilaw areas that don’t release wastewater in a proper way,” Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda directed senior officials at a meeting held recently to discuss issues regarding the mismanagement of shrimp farms in the North and North-Western provinces.
While stressing the need to take legal action against those companies “irrespective of their status”, Mr. Devananda also directed officials to submit a report on action taken and take action against the NAQDA officials who did not fulfil their responsibility, according to a statement issued by the ministry on the meeting.
A separate report has also been called on the measures taken against NAQDA officials who failed in their duties to ensure that shrimp farms adhered to environmental regulations.
A recent field study carried out by relevant agencies found that of the 670 shrimp farms in the Chilaw and Puttalam areas, at least 273 lacked proper wastewater management plans.
The directives came after a shrimp farm run by Taprobane Seafoods, located near an environmentally sensitive Vidathalthivu protected natural sanctuary, was found to be discharging wastewater from the farm, resulting in the death of fish banks in the nearby waterway and the surrounding natural habitat.
Mr. Devananda also questioned the effects of the wastewater released by another shrimp farm in the Erukkulam area in Mannar. He asked officials to inform the shrimp farm, which lacked an adequate system to manage wastewater, that they should prepare a suitable system within six months.