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National Safety at Sea Plan Launched in Sri Lanka

14 May 2013

SRI LANKA - Fishermen and vessel safety in Sri Lanka has taken a major step forward with the launch of a National Plan for the Safety of Fishers and Fishing Vessels at Sea.

The plan was launched by Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development at a ceremony held in Colombo on 9 May. It was developed through the assistance and technical support of the FAO’s Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme for South and Southeast Asia (RFLP) which is funded by Spain.

The plan formalises the national approach to safety at sea in Sri Lanka. It creates a stronger foundation for activities which were previously taking place on an ad hoc basis and also clarifies the responsibilities of relevant organisations.

“Though various measures have been taken to ensure the safety of fishers and fishing vessels in the past in Sri Lanka it was felt necessary to incorporate them along with new measures in a single document and to elevate it to the status of a National Plan of Action,” said Dr Champa Amarasiri, RFLP National Programme Manager for Sri Lanka.

The plan was developed with active collaboration from all major stakeholders including the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Coast Guard, Sri Lanka Air Force, Sri Lanka Police, Telecommunication Regulatory Commission as well as fishing communities themselves.

Specific objectives of the plan include ensuring the safety and the wellbeing of fishers and fishing vessels at sea as well as obtaining the active participation of community-based organisations in this regard. The capacity of fishers to cope with distress situations will be enhanced as will that of boat builders and equipment suppliers to improve and maintain quality standards of their supplies.

Elements of the plan include the development of a fisheries accident reporting system and a national search and rescue capacity. The plan recommends enhanced training and the issuance of certificates of competence relevant to each type and level of fishers. It also seeks to establish effective policy, legal and institutional mechanisms in support of the safety of fishers and fishing vessels at sea. In addition, the plan details an implementation plan, responsibilities, coordination arrangements and timelines.

A Fisheries Safety at Sea Task Force (FISTAF) for policy making and overseeing implementation of the plan will be established. A Monitoring Task Force (MTF) for inspection and surveillance at sea will also be created.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development will now take the plan forward and coordinate its implementation.

Mr Patrick Evans, FAO Representative to Sri Lanka said: “Sri Lanka’s fisheries sector generates substantial foreign earnings while supporting the livelihoods of many thousands of small-scale fishers. Enhancing the safety of both vessels and fishers will therefore deliver economic and social benefits from the national to community level.”

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