Illegal Bottom Trawling in Sri Lanka

On the 6th of July 2017, the Parliament of Sri Lanka passed an amendment to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996, declaring the use of bottom trawl nets for fishing as illegal, setting a global precedent by banning one of the world’s most destructive forms of fishing in Sri Lankan waters. The offense is punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine not less than fifty thousand rupees (Sections 28A & 49(2AA) of the Fisheries Act as amended).

However, as per Hiru News aired on the 24th of January 2018, bottom trawl nets were still carried out in the areas of Puttalam-Mannar unlawfully, despite enacting a law against it in 2017.

Due to the above lack of law enforcement in certain parts of the country, EFL has written to the Director General of the Department of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources in February 2018, and later to NARA (National Aquatic Resources Research & Development Agency) in April 2018, urging to enforce the law and ban bottom trawling in all parts of Sri Lanka, stating its social, economic and environmental impacts. EFL has also requested coordination with other relevant authorities (Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Aquatic Resources Research & Development Agency, Department of Wildlife Conservation) to be mandated to protect such environments.

At the same time, EFL also emphasized the importance of involving the fisherman in this process by educating them on the harm and repercussions of bottom trawling, assisting fishermen to adapt lesser harmful fishing practices, proving a set of guidelines/regulations to be followed inclusive of alternate less destructive fishing gear and most importantly, raising awareness about law enforcement.

The prohibition of the use of bottom trawl nets in Sri Lankan waters is a reiteration of the Government’s commitment to protecting Sri Lanka’s marine resources and its valuable fish population and further prevents conflicts between fishing communities. It also represents an opportunity to promote and drive a sustainable approach to managing and harvesting Sri Lanka’s rich fishery resources.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development is the mandated authority, under the provisions of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996 as amended, established to manage, develop and conserve the aquatic resources of Sri Lanka on behalf of the citizens and future generations.

EFL’s primary objective is to establish a balance between sustainable development and the protection of the environment and would like to extend our support and share our expertise and recommendations in developing solutions to mitigate the negative impacts caused by the use of bottom trawl nets in Sri Lanka. EFL continues to monitor the situation and continue correspondence with NARA to make the law enforcement more effective and stop bottom trawling taking place in Sri Lankan seas.


Click on the link below to know the negative environmental impact of bottom trawling

Bottom Trawling video by EFL