Piloting aquaculture in the Gulf of Mannar

Location: Vankalai, Mannar, Sri Lanka. 16th Aug 2017

As the Mannar region in Sri Lanka recovers from recent conflict, MFF is working with people and organisations to improve resilience through alternative livelihoods such as tourism and aquaculture. Nirooparaj Balachandran, an officer for the National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA) in Mannar, was one of 12 people who received training in strategies for aquaculture development in the Vankalai wetland. He reflects on the experience, and what it will mean for the future.
nirooparaj balachandran2

Nirooparaj Balachandran

We were really happy to be part of this project, as it gave us the opportunity to learn many things. One of the more important things we learned about was the challenges we face in establishing pond aquaculture activities in the area. We wish to state that these models that we learned about during the training project are important to developing our future plans and policies in pond aquaculture projects.

The northern sea of Sri Lanka is blessed with numerous marine and freshwater aquatic resources. For hundreds of years, these resources have been utilised by local populations and, lately, by the international community, for capture fisheries. Recent environmental changes, unprecedented climatic variations and illegal fishing have been reducing the fishing options and threatening the livelihoods of fishermen who rely on deep-sea fishing for their income.

While aquaculture is very advanced around the world, Sri Lanka is only just learning, and waiting to kick off profitable and lucrative businesses through aquaculture.

Mannar is a district of Sri Lanka with varying topography and ethnic groups and major engagement in fishery that now is under immense threat. It has a coastal strip of more than 200 km and seven lagoons (Achchankulan, Vankalai, Vidathatheevu, Illupaikadi, Thevanpitty, Kalliyadi and Pappamoddai), which have plenty of potential for all kinds of aquaculture practices.

After long discussions and pilot research, aquaculture is unanimously proposed by experts and the population as a good way of earning alternative income, while protecting nature and biodiversity.

Though we do not have many advanced techniques here in Sri Lanka, we are practicing traditional methods successfully.

Culture of shrimp, sea cucumber, seaweed, crab, milkfish, sea bass, oyster and all kinds of reef fish is notability conducted in Sri Lanka now, from Mannar to the Jaffna coastal belt. This provides an opportunity for poor people to enhance their income and food security. It also prevents wild fisheries from being overexploited.  

On the conservation front, artificial propagation of corals, culture-based protection for endangered species, protection for biodiversity by culture of specific species and biological control methods of harmful aquatic organisms are being practiced. 

Currently, Sri Lanka – especially Northern Sri Lanka – needs some experts in aquaculture breeding technology. It also needs some financial support for small-level eco-friendly aquaculture practices.

To initiate and promote sustainable aquaculture that could provide jobs and conserve aquatic resources, we need to have more engagement from investors and funding organisations.

As Sri Lanka is an island, it would be easy to promote aquaculture or culture-based fishery to cater to the twofold need for income generation and food security.

Presently, the National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka is a legitimate institution that is introducing and promoting both coastal and marine aquaculture in the country.

This article was contributed by Nirooparaj as part of a report concluding the MFF project “Introduction of a Community-based Management Model for Vankalai Wetland Ecosystem, Mannar, Sri Lanka."

Sea cucumber culture

Sea cucumber culture , Mannar © Kumudini Ekaratne, 2012

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