Mechanized bottom trawling is designed to catch large quantities of marine life by dragging weighted nets along the ocean floor. A special license for this form of fishing can be obtained under the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act and Regulations of 1996.
TNA Member of Parliament, M.A. Sumanthiran tabled a Bill in Parliament on 10 February 2016 to ban bottom trawling.
Here are five reasons why Parliament should enact this Bill to ban bottom trawling:
1. Bottom trawling destroys the environment
According to the World Wildlife Fund, bottom trawling ‘irreversibly destroys’ marine habitats. Fragile ecosystems containing endangered marine species and rare coral reefs are destroyed in a matter of minutes.
2. It is a wasteful form of fishing
The Marine Conservation Institute has observed that bottom trawling is wasteful because trawlers usually throw overboard up to 90 per cent of a catch. Thus there are clear economic benefits in banning the practice. Both the fisheries sector and the Sri Lankan economy stand to gain, as fishing grounds become more sustainable in the long-term.
3. It’s harming the livelihoods of Sri Lankan fishermen
Over a thousand Indian boats engage in mechanized bottom trawling every week in Sri Lankan waters. These boats prevent Sri Lankan fishermen from accessing these waters and engaging in their livelihoods. The Indian boats deplete fishing resources, leaving very little for Sri Lankan fishermen to catch.
4. It’s affecting diplomatic relations
The Sri Lankan government has arrested Indian trawler operators for trespassing. The arrests have affected Sri Lanka’s diplomatic relations with India because Indian fishermen claim that they have traditional fishing rights in Sri Lankan waters. However, mechanized bottom trawling is not a form of traditional fishing. So totally banning it shifts the focus away from ‘who’ is fishing to the actual practice. A total ban will be fair and reasonable, as it will apply not only to Indian boats, but also to Sri Lankan boats.
5. We can make history
In 2015, Chile became the first country in the world to permanently protect all its seamounts from bottom trawling. Countries including Indonesia, New Zealand, Belize and the United States have also imposed limited bans on trawling. Similarly, Indian states including Tamil Nadu and Kerala impose annual fishing bans to mitigate the devastating effects of the practice. If a law banning bottom trawling is enacted, Sri Lanka will be the first country in Asia to totally ban the practice. The ban will contribute towards Sri Lanka’s emergence as a global leader on environmental protection and confirm Sri Lanka’s commitment to sustainable fishing.
For these reasons, Parliament should enact the proposed Bill to ban bottom trawling. Our environment, our economy, our local fishermen, our foreign relations, and our place in history stand to benefit.