Waiting for their turn

Picture by: Poornima Perera, Rotaract Shutterbug Participant

The fisheries sector plays a key role in Sri Lanka’s social and economic life. Fish products are an important source of animal protein for the population and the sector contributes about 2 percent to GDP. The fisheries sector of Sri Lanka consists of three main subsectors, namely coastal; offshore and deep sea; and inland and aquaculture. These three subsectors employ around 250 000 active fishers and another 100,000 in support services. This workforce represents a population of some one million people.

On 26 December 2004, the fisheries sector was severely affected by tsunami tidal waves that hit two-thirds of the coastline of the island. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of active fishers were affected and more than 75 percent of the fishing fleet was destroyed or damaged by the tsunami. In addition, a large number of small-scale fishing craft and fishing gear were destroyed. Of the 12 fishing harbours, 10 were severely damaged, including breakwaters, shore facilities, buildings, machinery and equipment. In addition, public and private utilities, such as ice plants, landing ports, markets and the homes of the fishing community were destroyed.

Traditionally, fishing has been inshore using simple canoes with outriggers and, despite development efforts spanning over 50 years, this type of boat still makes up nearly half of the fleet. Some 2 percent of fishing boats are canoes powered by outboard motors, and a further 3 percent are beach seine craft without motors. Larger, motorized “day boats” were introduced in the mid-1950s and consist of two types of craft: 18-foot flat-bottomed fibreglass reinforced plastic boats with outboard motors, and FRP motorized boats. In the early 1980s, 59 ft motorized multi-day boats were introduced.

The picture depicts the fisherman resting in the harbor during the day time after the fish has been unloaded and taken away by the merchants.

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