In a startling revelation, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources admitted that departmental inspectors and law enforcement officials were obtaining bribes for the release of fishermen and their equipment taken into custody for illegal fishing.
This shocking revelation comes in the wake of a recent protest campaign turned violent in Kalpitiya with clashes that eventually required the deployment of Special Task Force personnel to quell the unrest.
Clashes erupted between two factions in the fishing community with one charging that the other was using banned fishing nets all of which according to the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) were environmentally destructive.
It was also noted that certain fishermen were engaged in fishing in shallow waters which is also illegal.
Police Media spokesman, DIG Priyantha Jayakody categorically denied any involvement of their men and palms being greased.There are restrictions imposed on nets in terms of length, width, height, mesh size and thickness or ply.
Head of the Fishing Technology Division of NARA, Senior Scientist NBP Punyadeva pointed out that while the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources had granted 52 licenses for the use of legally accepted nets, unauthorized nets were been deployed.
“The inequitable distribution of the fisheries resource among members of the fishing community (boat owners who engage in large scale fishing and small scale fishermen) is the biggest problem”, he revealed.
Even though the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is charged with the responsibility of monitoring fishing activities and the establishment of a proper system for doing so, Director General of the Department, MCL Fernando said that this constituted a practical and logistical nightmare.
Meanwhile, Ministry officials also charged that lacunas in the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act (especially those regarding the prosecution of acts of fishing using dynamite) and judicial interpretations of the relevant law are inconsistent with the Act’s provisions as exacerbating the already abysmal state of affairs.
Ministry Secretary, WMMR Adikari proposed cohesiveness on the part of the relevant law enforcement agencies and the establishment of an action plan as solutions to the pressing issues.