The Ministry has aims to develop two fisheries Mega Zones in 2016 and 10 fisheries mega zones by the year 2020.
Given the richness in aquatic resources, the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka comprises of offshore, coastal and freshwater fisheries, as well as coastal and freshwater aquaculture. It contributes around 1.7% of the total GDP and provides direct and indirect employment to over 500,000 people in coastal communities around the country. It is the main source of household income for an estimated 2.5 million individuals, equivalent to 8% of the population and plays a significant role in alleviating hunger and malnutrition.
Global aquaculture production has increased steadily in recent years as nearly 46% of the world’s fish produced for human consumption comes from farmed sources. It is the fastest growing food production sector and has become an important element of economic growth and poverty reduction plans in many countries.
Since Sri Lanka has vast water bodies, significant ground water resources and suitable environmental conditions, the country has enormous potential to increase the production of finfish and shellfish through the sustainable development of aquaculture. The current percentage of aquaculture being only
18% in Sri Lanka means there is enormous potential for Sri Lanka to develop non traditional and novel ways of improving export turnover.
With the proposed setting up of 10 Fisheries Mega Zones around the country the Ministry of Primary Industries aims to develop aquaculture on a commercial scale through increased investment, financial assistance and support to fish farmers and local communities who will be given practical-oriented training in fish farming.
The Ministry plans to focus their efforts on high-value aquatic resources by setting up a large fisheries Mega Zone in Kalpititya where Sea Cucumber, Sea Bass, Tilapia and Sea Weed(from which the substance Carrageenan will be extracted for use in the food industry) will be farmed on a commercial scale.
In both the Kalpitiya and Oluvil fisheries Mega Zones an aquaculture practice known as Bivalve Farming will be developed by which shellfish varieties such as oysters, mussels, clams and cockles will be farmed for human consumption. Small-scale fishermen would be involved in bivalve farming through the proper management and direction of bivalve farming development programs as the product is expected to be a major source of foreign exchange.
Though in the past restrictions such as high cost of production and the high cost of commercial feed have prevented the growth of the aquaculture industry in Sri Lanka, the Ministry aims to promote aquaculture as a viable commercial enterprise by providing sufficient incentives and support for fish farmers to commercialize their activities. The proposed program has the potential to place Sri Lanka as a key player in global seafood market through farming of high value species, thereby increasing foreign revenue and improving the livelihood of coastal communities.
By promoting aquaculture development inside the Mega Zones it is also possible to avoid disease and achieve better sustainability. Sustainable, responsible aquaculture and fish farming will prevent the depletion of wild fisheries stocks and lead to large export potential as fish farms will promise food safety, stimulate the economy, create jobs and provide fish as food for consumption.
Besides the massive economical benefits to the rural fisheries communities and foreign exchange earned to the country, oyster farming also provides substantial environmental benefits as the oysters’ feeding properties improves water quality and provides an excellent habitat for other marine organisms. Therefore the Ministry is also engaged in plans to introduce oysters into the canals around Colombo to improve the water quality.