Written by Staff Writer
05 Apr, 2015 | 9:08 pm
Traditional fishermen are at risk of losing vital fishing grounds in Kalpitiya.
The illegal activities of a handful may soon cause the nation to lose its largest coral reef in Kalpitiya, affecting not only traditional fishermen, but also the fish population in this bio-diverse area.
News 1st’s Florin Rajendran reports from Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka,
Kalpitiya, isolated for decades by conflict, has a history which dates back thousands of years.
While it is home to what was a thriving fishing community, it was identified as a key port by the European colonists and is even believed to be the location of the fabled bronze beach, or Thambapanni, where Prince Vijaya first made port in Sri Lanka.
This idyllic stretch of beach is located about 150 kilometres from Colombo.
The coast of Kalpitiya has become a major tourist hotspot post-war, attracting tourists from across the world and from across Sri Lanka, who come here to witness the monumental reef.
In 1992, the Coast Conservation Department declared the reef and surrounding waters an Ocean Sanctuary.
While 400 species of aquaculture have been identified, Kalpitiya also boasts of almost year round whale and dolphin watching.
Kalpitiya is also home to many varieties of bird-life.
The coral reef itself, which spans about 306 kilometers, boasts of 122 varieties of coral.
Much of the reef has been destroyed today due to illegal fishing methods, including the use of prohibited nets and dynamite.
Keira Perera a professional diver speaking to us said that he was amazed at the extent of the destruction here, adding that 40 percent of the coral reef off Kalpitiya has been destroyed because of the use of Laila nets.
A variety of fishing nets, known by locals as “Laila and Surukku” destroy the seabed.
The bottom trawling nets snag even the smallest of fish, and the damage caused to the seabed, has a massive detrimental effect on the ability of the fish population to replenish itself.
The News 1st team also encountered a group using illegal fishing methods, but upon seeing us, they drew in their equipment and fled.
Chief Incumbent of Sri Samudrasanna Viharaya Ven. Bendiwewe Diyasena Thera said that this is a major violation of environmental conventions entered into with the UN. He went onto note that this is being done with the blessings of a powerful police officer in Puttalam.
Meanwhile Deputy Minister of Fisheries Dayashritha Tissera expressed the following,
”Many prohibited activities do take place. Distilling moonshine is illegal, but it happens. While NARA and the Ministry are conducting an investigation, those using Laila Surukku nets have been told to stop. We are hoping to hold discussions with the President and implement a programme where they too are given alternate employment.”
While authorities attempt to work out mechanisms to please all parties, these fishermen can only look on as their livelihoods disappear before their very eyes.
If the lethargy surrounding implementing conservation laws continues unchecked, the rest of the country too, will be made to simply look on as one of the greatest treasures of this island, is wiped off the face of the earth.
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