Fisheries and Aquaculture
Inland Fishing in Sri Lanka
Fishing is one of the oldest professions in the world, from Biblical times. During the life of Jesus Christ, it was a group of humble fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, that he summoned, to become his disciples, promising to make them "catchers of men".
There are old sayings connected with the word 'Fish'. For instance, 'To fish in troubled waters' and like' A fish out of water'. The first refers to an opportunist who makes profit out of disturbances, and the second denotes a human being in a wrong element.
Fresh water Fishermen live by the waters such as Lakes, Rivers, Tanks and Lagoons, while their brethren on the coast line, who venture into the seas, live close to the sea. Although fish commands a ready sale, we find that the fisherman is a pauper living in squalor and abject poverty. It is only the middleman who benefits from their sweat. The present Minister of Fisheries has a laudable plan to educate young fishermen in the methods of scientific fishing, with Government patronage, and even to turn out graduates in this art.
While the seas around the Island of Sri Lanka are full of varieties of sea fish, fish also abound in inland collections of water, both brackish and fresh water. The fish that live in brackish water are quite different from those that live in fresh water. The Island's distribution of brackish water are lagoons, and the estuaries of Puttalam, Negombo, Batticoloa and the lakes of Koggala, Dodanduwa and Balapitiya. These are famous for crustacean like crabs and prawns while the rivers, streams, tanks and villus where there is natural fresh water, the type of fish are different. They are the Ara, Loola, Hunga, Valaya, Magura, Pethiya and Madakariya. Large Prawns called Andu Issa, with long claws, are also found there. All these fish are indigenous, while there are two kinds of fresh water fish which are foreign to this country, such as the Tilapia introduced by the Government to augment the fish supply, and Gouramy, a total vegetarian, that has accidentally been introduced into the Mahaweli ganga from a pond at the Peradeniya Gardens, during floods decades ago. This large size fish now breed profusely in the Mahaweli river, the Ambanganga and all the tanks and villus fed by these rivers.
Fish like the Magura, Hunga, Loola, Kanaya and the Kawaiya can exist for long periods buried in damp mud. These fish have adapted themselves to support life out of water, or in minimum water. When there is a flood, they activate themselves and resume life in the water. The Kawaiya is a sturdy fish with a blunt head, and its body is encased in tough scales. They grow to a maximum of five to eight inches, and are called the Walking Fish. They migrate from one water source to another over land, stepping up on their strong fins in a lateral movement.
Batticaloa is famous for its Singing Fish. They are supposed to live in the lagoon. People can hear the singing of the fish from a boat during a moonlight night. It is best heard by dipping the oar into the water and keeping the handle to the ear. The scientific belief on this singing fish is that when water flows over open mouthed mollusks that are found on the bed of the lagoon, musical sounds emanate akin to be coming from an orchestra.
There is a peculiar fish in the' Bentara Ganga, called the' Archer' Fish, which has a unique way of getting it's food. It sustains itself on insects and flies, that live in the overhanging branches of trees above the river, by shooting water bubbles at the insects, even upto a-height of eight feet. When the insect falls, it at once, gulps it. They are excellent marksmen and use their mouths as weapons. Their fins are yellow and black, while they have a green yellow coat.
The most popular method of fishing is with the Wisi Dela'. This is a conical shaped net of small mesh, with a strong string attached to its apex. The large circular base or the periphery is weighted with heavy pellets of lead enclosed in a frill, so that no sooner the net touches the water after it is cast, it sinks to the bottom, preventing the fish from escaping. Once the net is cast, the string attached to the apex is gradually pulled so that the net closes up, trapping the fish caught in the net. It is a sight, to witness a fisherman cast this net, which is folded on his arm, with a sweep, casting with astonishing accuracy, ensuring a wide spread.
Another method of catching fish is with the 'Pala Dela', a net of great length, and about eight feet wide. The base of this net is weighted with rounded up broken pieces of 'chatti, to enable it to sink and to hold it vertical in water. Floats are attached at intervals. Sometimes split fronds of young coconut leaves are attached to the net, where it gets its name, 'Pala Dela', This is done to camouflage the net. This net is cast across two points in the stretch of the lake where fish swimming across it, gets caught. The fishermen also fix barricades across narrow arcs of the lakes, with sheets of woven bamboo tats, called 'Bata Pelali'. In this barricade called the Kotuwa, is a chamber at the deep point of the water, where the fish entering are unable to get out. Fish thus trapped are fished out with the help of a hand net or Athanguwa'. To activate a Kotuwa, one has to obtain an annual license on the payment of a fee, from the Local Authority. Catching shrimps or prawns are usually done in the night, with the help of a lighted lamp, stuck in the mud on a pole above the water. When the prawns attracted by the light approach it, men with hand nets fish them out, standing in the water waist deep. Catching crabs who are bottom feeders, is different. The contrivance used, is a ring made out of a strong creeper, to which is attached a piece of discarded net and a cross bar.
Fish keeping is today the world’s most popular hobby after photography and ornamental fishes are the most popular pets in the world. Ornamental fishes have gained popularity as it is easy to maintain them inside homes when compared to other pets like dogs and birds.
The growing interest in aquarium fishes has resulted in steady increase in aquarium fish production the world over and at present it is the sunrise industry in aquaculture sector.
Ornamental fish production and related activities like production of aquarium tanks, toys,etc is a multimillion industry at present. The trend in the industry for the last few decades was that the ornamental production is in developing countries and the consumers are mainly developed countries like USA, EU ,Japan etc.
This trend is also changing as the Asian countries like China and India are making economic progress and as the disposable income of people in these countries, are increasing the domestic markets for ornamental fishery of these two countries are also in increase.
The main production centers are found in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong Malaysia, Srilanka, Maldives etc. Except for a handful of species, all marine ornamental fish are caught from the world’s tropical oceans. The opportunity to acquire a share of this increasing market is greater for developing Asian countries .
A shrimp farm is an aquaculture business for the cultivation of marine shrimp or prawns for human consumption. Commercial shrimp farming began in the 1970s, and production grew steeply, particularly to match the market demands of the U.S., Japan and Western Europe.
Shrimp have been farmed for centuries in Asia, using traditional low-density methods. Indonesian brackish water ponds called tambaks can be traced back as far as the 15th century.
Shrimp were farmed on a small scale in ponds, in monocultures or together with other species such as milkfish, or in rotation with rice, using the rice paddies for shrimp cultures during the dry season, when no rice could be grown. Such traditional cultures often were small operations in coastal areas or on river banks. Mangrove areas were favoured because of their naturally abundant supply of shrimp.