Community participatory biodiversity conservation of Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary

Awareness programme for fishers

Awareness programme for fishers, Kalpitiya © St. Sebastian Fisheries Coop Society, 2012


  • Minimising human-induced impacts, especially from tourists, on the coastal biodiversity of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary;
  • Enhancing education and awareness on marine biodiversity and eco-friendly tourism;
  • Exerting pressure, through communities, on responsible government agencies, to increase their commitment to conservation of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary; and
  • Promoting sustainable use of coastal resources for ecotourism.




Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary – the largest marine protected area in Sri Lanka – runs parallel to the coast from the northern end of the Kalpitiya Peninsula, to the islands which separate Portugal Bay from the Gulf of Mannar. It has high ecological, biological and aesthetic significance, being the home of 156 species of coral and 283 species of reef fish. In 1992, the Bar Reef was declared a Marine Sanctuary (306.7 km²), under the jurisdiction of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Despite this measures of protection, Bar Reef is threatened by many anthropogenic activities such as overexploitation of fish resources, unsuitable fishing methods (such as deep purse-seining, which damages coral and depletes fish resources) and pollution from human activities (shrimp farms and agriculture). Rapid development of tourism, focused in particular on dolphin and whale watching, could also pose a threat to this habitat.

Educating communities of the area about the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary – highlighting its values and the threats to its habitat – will serve to increase awareness and in the long-term, serve as a stepping stone to reduce threats.


  • Six awareness programmes on the conservation of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary were conducted for 273 members from six fisheries cooperative societies.
  • One awareness programme on the importance of conserving coastal resources and the importance of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary, was carried out for government officials including the Divisional Secretary and staff, members of the Pradeshiya Sabha, the police, the navy, officers of the Department of Coast Conservation and Coastal Zone Management, the Urban Development Authority, the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority and school principals.
  • One awareness programme, on the management of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary for tourism service providers, was held for 38 hotel owners in the area.
  • Four thousand brochures on marine resources in the area and their value have been printed in Sinhala (2,000) and Tamil (2,000) languages, and distributed among school children and fishing communities.
  • Five awareness boards carrying messages about the value of dolphins, the importance of keeping the coast clean from pollution, the conservation of mangroves, and the value of coral reefs, have been installed in Kandakuliya, Tudawa and Eichchakaduwa.

Target beneficiaries

273 members of six Fisheries Co-op Societies.


Importance of the Bar reef Marine Sactury has been recognized by the community. 

5 display boards have been put up. 

Accomplishments and challenges

  • This project led to the formation of an association for boat owners, to systematically facilitate transport of tourists. Because of this new initiative, many people have begun activities related to tourist transport, as well as providing accommodation. This was thus a new experience, as earlier, fishers were only provided with loans.
  • It is reported that communities are putting pressure on those whose actions degrade the Sanctuary.
  • The knowledge among navy personnel and other law enforcing departments has been increased, so that rules and regulations related to use of resources in the Sanctuary are being implemented strictly.
  • It is reported that boat owners are taking initiatives to prevent damage to the area by local and foreign tourists.

Contributions to cross-cutting themes

communications products - 5 display boards with environmental messages.

Majority of trainees are males as fishing is a male dominated livelihood activity in this area.

Lessons Learned

  •  Increased knowledge results in increased self-managment among communities.
  •  Creating awareness has provided a much-needed impetus for conservation.

Project Facts



Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary, Kalpitiya



1st May 2011 to 29th Feb 2012

MFF Grant Amount

LKR 442,050.00

Implementing Partner

Mr Rohan Priyantha  (President)
St. Sebastian Fisheries Cooperative Society (North)
Tel: + 94 726272168

"I hope the community is now aware of the importance of the reef and therefore, the threats to the reef will be minimized" Mr Roy Priyantha.

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