Emergency Call Service to aid fishermen in distress



The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Amendment) Bill submitted to amend the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996 was approved by the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Food Security and Agriculture.

This approval was given when the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Food Security and Agriculture met in Parliament recently under the chairmanship of MP D. Weerasinghe.

The meeting was attended by a group of officials including the Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and youth representatives appointed for the Sectoral Oversight Committee.

In the case of illegal, unreported and informal fishing, only the license holder is found guilty under existing legal provisions. But the Fisheries Act has not interpreted who the license holder is. Due to this, obstacles have arisen in taking legal action.

Officials said that through the new amendments, in addition to the boat owner, skipper of the boat, any person onboard are also guilty of that offence. The officials added that fishermen associations have also requested to amend these provisions.

The Bill was challenged in the Supreme Court following the first reading in Parliament on July 5, 2023 by Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda.
Accordingly, according to the determination given by the Supreme Court, the amendments to be presented in the committee of the Bill were also discussed and approved.

Furthermore, when fishing boats are involved in accidents, there are no officials appointed by the ministry to provide immediate relief to the victims and take legal action, MP Weerasinghe pointed out.
Officials said that there are fisheries offices in 15 coastal districts for which fisheries inspectors and development officers have been appointed. Also, the officials pointed out that the support of the Navy will be obtained in all areas. However, since people coming from other areas may not know the fisheries inspectors of the respective area, the chairman of the committee recommended that steps be taken to introduce an Emergency Call Service that fishermen in any area can call immediately in case of accidents.

Apart from this, matters related to granting permission for temporary rest areas for fishermen built along the coast, quality of fishing boats, insurance for boats and fresh water fish farming were also discussed.

MPs Sudath Manjula, Kapila Athukorala, Kins Nelson and Lalith Waranakumara participated in the meeting.


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