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‘Chinese investment’ in sea cucumber farm sparks issues amongst northern Sri Lankan fishermen 

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Northern Sri Lankan fishermen see authorities’s thrust on industrial aquaculture as newest risk to their livelihoods and land.

Northern Sri Lankan fishermen see authorities’s thrust on industrial aquaculture as newest risk to their livelihoods and land.

Citing media studies of a Chinese agency investing in a sea cucumber farm in Pungudutivu, off Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, native fishermen have raised concern over its potential influence on their livelihoods, marine ecosystem, and land.  

“We recognise the need for investment in our war-affected region, but the sea cucumber farms are mainly for exports. They will only bring more harm than benefit for those of us living here,” stated Annalingam Annarasa, President of the Jaffna Fisheries Federation.  The industrial ventures, they worry, may adversely have an effect on the native marine ecology on which their livelihoods rely.

Small-scale artisanal fishermen like him see the federal government’s latest push on aquaculture as the newest blow to their livelihoods, already precarious because of the relentless bottom-trawling by Indian fishermen of their seas for years, and the drastic, almost four-fold enhance in kerosene worth final month.

The Palk Bay fisheries battle: A story of competing livelihoods and a depleted catch

In 2021, Sri Lanka exported about 336 tonnes of sea cucumber to China, Singapore, and Hong Kong, in line with native media studies. Desperate to seek out {dollars} to stabilise its battered economic system, the Sri Lankan authorities seems to have recognized potential for each, international funding and exports in breeding and promoting the sausage-shaped marine animal thought-about a delicacy in China and Southeast Asia. Locals don’t devour sea cucumbers.

In June this 12 months, the Cabinet accredited a proposal for a large-scale industrial sea cucumber undertaking spanning 5,000 acres in Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts within the north and east, after Sri Lanka earned “a significant amount” of international trade by exporting sea cucumbers. The proposal got here from Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, who represents Jaffna district in Parliament. The National Aquaculture Development Authority functioning below his ministry is main the initiative.

“We need both investment and technology in the north to cultivate sea cucumbers. I have been asking India for five to six years but have not had any response. We must explore other options, right? We are only talking to a Chinese firm, no project has been finalised yet,” Mr. Devananda informed The Hindu, including he’ll “never allow” any risk to India’s safety issues. Pungudutivu, the place the farm is being proposed, is close to Nainativu, which is likely one of the three islands the place Sri Lanka had cleared a Chinese renewable vitality undertaking final 12 months. However, with India objecting to it, citing the undertaking’s proximity to its southern coast, Sri Lanka cancelled the enterprise, as a substitute agreeing to accommodate an Indian undertaking on the three websites.

Jobs or battle?

The sea cucumber tasks will “certainly bring jobs locally,” the Minister additional stated, making certain the undertaking is not going to have an effect on native fishermen.

When contacted, the Chinese Embassy stated it had no data but on a Chinese agency investing in a sea cucumber farm within the small island off Jaffna Peninsula. “It could be a private company negotiating on a commercial basis,” a spokesman stated. However, pointing to an current three way partnership between a Chinese agency and Sri Lanka, within the coastal village of Ariyalai in Jaffna, the Chinese official stated “it has created about one thousand jobs for nearby villages. Last year it provided 5 lakh sea cucumber seedlings to local farmers for free and $ one million was brought in.”

Another Chinese undertaking within the neighbouring Kilinochchi district confronted stiff opposition final 12 months from native fishermen who objected to the farm fencing off some land adjoining the ocean, proscribing entry to even native fishermen. “We agitated since they were not consulting us, and we noticed that while the firm was promoted a hatchery, they were actually fishing the sea cucumbers from our waters. That sort of large catch on a regular basis can really damage our marine resources,” stated Ok. Baheerathan of the Koutharimunai Fishermen’s Association.

According to locals, Chinese investments are fewer in comparison with the proliferation of some 250 sea cucumber farms within the north within the final 12 months. “Most of the investors are locals, but many are not from the fisher community. They are politically well-connected and influential…the real issue is our Fisheries Ministry is now focused only on aquaculture for profits, and not fisheries which is also about livelihoods. Fishermen like us, our experiences or knowledge don’t figure in their plans,” Mr. Annarasa stated.

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