The Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka President Dilan Fernando (third from left) presenting a commemoration to the State Minister of Fisheries Dilip Wedaarachchi in the presence of the founder of the sustainable fisheries consultancy Pelagikos Limited and the coordinator of FIPs, Steve Creech ( extreme left).
Pic by Pradeep Dilruckshana
- Seafood exports estimated to have exceeded US $ 300mn in 2018
- Local crab fishery earns Seafood Watch’s ‘Good Alternative’ rating
Sri Lanka’s seafood industry is eyeing US $ 350 million in exports this year in line with a three-year target of achieving US $ 1 billion in seafood export revenue by 2022.
Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL) President Dilan Fernando revealed that seafood exports were estimated to have exceeded US $ 300 million in 2018, a growth of 24 percent compared to 2017.
He made these comments to Mirror Business on the sidelines of a press conference held yesterday in Colombo to announce that two varieties of Sri Lankan fish were recommended, for the first time ever, to consumers, retailers and to the global seafood industry as a good alternative by North America’s leading seafood rating agency for sustainable practices, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.
Blue swimming crab in the Gulf of Mannar and in Palk Bay was moved from a red ‘Avoid’ ranking to a yellow ‘Good Alternative’ rating by the agency, following the implementation of parallel Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) in 2013, which was targeted at influencing fishermen for more sustainable practices, through an investment of US $450,000 made by various international and local organisations.
These were also the first fish type in Sri Lanka and the only blue swimming crab category in South and South East Asia to be recommended by Seafood Watch.
Sri Lanka’s crab exports stood at US $25 million in 2018, and Fernando expects that export revenue would reach US $30 million by the end of this year.
Speaking at the occasion, the founder of the sustainable fisheries consultancy, Pelagikos Limited, and the coordinator of FIPs, Steve Creech, pointed out that due to the rating upgrade, Sri Lanka will be able to access premium markets while getting premium prices for its blue crab exports.
According to Fernando, the final export destination for Sri Lanka’s 90-99 percent of sea crab is United States, while Singapore remains as a major export market for lagoon crab.
He expects that with new rankings, Sri Lankan exporters will be able to get premium prices, and with the exporters paying more to fishermen, more fishermen will resort to crab farming.
However, Fernando emphasised that the industry would focus more on shrimp farming to reach the US $1 billion export target in three years. He pointed out that India by largely focusing on shrimps, was able to boost its seafood exports sevenfold within six to seven years to reach US $7 billion export income from just US $900 million.
“We have a pilot project ongoing in a 50-acre land in the Northern Province; it will be soon go into the commercial stage,” he stressed.
Fernando noted that Sri Lanka will be able to boost its shrimp yield by nearly tenfold from the current yield, once the project reaches the commercial stage.
He revealed that the government already has given the seafood industry a 500-acre land in the Northern Province for shrimp farming, and said that there will be more land available for the private sector.
Japan remains as the main export destination for Sri Lankan shrimp. However, Fernando said that once the new supplies of shrimp come in, it’s more likely that the United States and the European Union would become the top two markets for Sri Lankan shrimps.
Meanwhile, Creech announced that under the Sri Lankan long line fishery improvement project, which was an initiative of the SEASL, three types tuna would likely to be upgraded to ‘Good Alterative’ rating by the agency this year.
He also expects the blue swimming crab fisheries will be moved into ‘Best Choice’ rating by 2021.
Creech noted that around US $80,000 per annum would be required to carry out these initiatives and he expects that local and international agencies will continue their investment in Sri Lankan fisheries projects.