The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has ordered that vessels transporting passengers out at sea would now have to obtain permission via a departure approval.
It follows the tragic death of 16 people including women and children when an overcrowded boat meant for fishing capsized off the coast of Kalutara last Sunday.

The victims were being transported to a Christian pilgrimage shrine in what was said to be a fishing trawler.

Meanwhile, Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Mahinda Amaraweera has issued directives to officials calling for the ill-fated boat’s fishing licence to be revoked.

The particular boat, according to Amaraweera, was only suited for deep sea fishing and meant to carry only five passengers on board.

Minister of Disaster Management, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa announced that the Government would be paying compensation to the families of the victims.

Director General of the Department MCL Fernando said that if any boat departure takes place without authorization it would be considered a violation of the law.

All ports and harbours have Department offices and officials. The applicable law which specifies how vessels should travel is the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996 with subsequent amendments. There are Ministry rules and guidelines too in this regard.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development pointed out that, multiday boats which are out at sea, fishing for weeks or even months, pack the bottom of the trawler with gunny bags of ice which serve two purposes, one for preserving the fish and the other of balancing the boat.

Assistant Director (Monitoring) of the Planning Division of the Ministry, BAPKR Bamunuarachchi added that though lifejackets have been provided to all vessels under Department regulations, boat owners, fishermen and passengers have an attitudinal issue when it comes to wearing them and do not heed warnings and instead with a cavalier attitude throw caution to the wind and go unjacketed.

“These multiday trawlers are for the purpose of catching fish not taking passengers. This is a complete violation of the relevant law,” he said.