Aquaculture

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.

Sea Cucumber

Some species will be cultivated local in the Kalpitiya mega zone aquaculture system. Sea cucumbers serve a useful role in the marine ecosystem as they help recycle nutrients, and other organic matter. As with many coastal fisheries, Sri Lanka’s sea cucumber fishery is primarily artisanal and contributes to the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal region as processed sea cucumbers are currently exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

Sea Bass

Cultured Sea Bass is a highly valued finfish in the Southeast Asian markets, and is a popular aquaculture species due to their high export demands in European and Middle Eastern countries. It is of high demand in restaurants and hotels as it lends itself well to cuisine. Commanding premium price in the markets, the farming of Sea Bass has several advantages as a commercial venture as they are less expensive and easier to raise and less vulnerable to disease. With low capital input and low operating costs Sea Bass farming can be undertaken by even small farmers.

Tilapia

Tilapia aquaculture products can be marketed to hotels and restaurants in the domestic market or sold into the export market due to high demand   particularly in the restaurant trade. Tilapia is the suitable species for farming in backyard ponds as they have been previously termed “aquatic chicken” – an animal that can be farmed easily and economically, and with the same broad market appeal as chicken.

Shrimp

Once a major source of income and a non-traditional foreign exchange earner, shrimp farming began in Sri Lanka in the early 1970s, however outbreaks of disease and degradation of water bodies resulted in high production losses and the abandoning of farms. Currently the Ministry is working closely with shrimp farmers to increase shrimp production through sustainable aquaculture practices, while earlier issues of disease outbreaks, which wiped out most of the industry can be prevented through proper aquaculture zoning.  Plans are underway for the development of new shrimp farms, shrimp hatcheries and seafood processing and improvement of the existing shrimp industry operations.

Pearl Culture

The Ministry is looking at novel and innovative ways of improving export turnover through pearl oyster cultivation. While a pilot oyster pearl cultivation project is underway in Kalpitiya, the also Ministry plans to develop an expansive pearl culture project in the Diyawanna lake aimed at providing employment, increasing foreign exchange earnings and contributing towards improving the living standards the people.

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.

Water Management Schemes

Plans are also underway to look at a more integrated water utilization mechanism whereby the Ministry aims to manage water usage by integrating both agriculture and fisheries activities using freshwater for aquaculture, which will then be reused for agriculture.