Fisheries in sri lanka
The fisheries sector plays an indispensable role in the economy of Sri Lanka contributing
around 1.2% to the GDP. Fish products are an important source of animal protein, providing
around 70% of the animal protein consumed in the country (Food Balance Sheet, Department
of Census and Statistics). The sector provides direct and indirect employment to around
650,000 people and is directly linked with the lives of approximately 50% of the population
who resides in the coastal belt. Fisheries sector contribution to the total export earnings of the
country is around 2.5%. The fisheries sector has a significant scope for increasing the
contribution to the national economy, exploiting the huge untapped potential. Fishing
industry in the Northern and Eastern provinces, which was hampered to a greater extent
during the past two decades owing to the ethnic conflict is expected to revive with the dawn
of peace. The Northern and Eastern provinces which accounts for around 60% of the
coastline of the island have a huge unexploited potential. The damaged infrastructure and
facilities as well as the curtailment of fishing activities on security grounds has resulted in a
considerable fall in production from these parts during the past two decades. With the
opening up of seas around the Northern and Eastern parts, the country expects a rapid boost
in the fishing and allied activities and hence the increase in contribution to the GDP.
Fishing for indigenous sporting fish in Sri Lanka is free. With a shoreline of 1,140 miles and a
continental shelf of 10,000 square miles, the seas around Ceylon have an unlimited fishing potential
Trolling over the continental shelf yields catches of tuna ranging from the 2-3ft skipjack to the 6ft
yellowfin and bluefin, the acrobatic dolphin, swordfish and marlin which attain a size to provide a
challenge to the best big game fishermen of any country. The broadbill swordfish found in deeper
waters reach a length of 15ft and a weight of well over 1,000lb. Though reaching only 10ft and 250lb,
the sailfish compensate for their smaller size by their remarkable agility.
The monsoons regulate the fishing in Sri Lanka Seas. The western and southern coasts are favoured
during the North-East monsoon (from October to April) and the east coast during the South-West
monsoon (from May to September). The best season for sport fishing in Sri Lanka in Western and
South Eastern Coast is from August to May when the seas are calm. The popular bait are artificial
lures but live bait is also used frequently. The bottom water bait such as Ropala, Big Mack, Sisco Kid
are popular and many other deep runners can be used successfully, with the Sail Fish and Grouper.
The other top water bait are Squid Skirts.
Next in popularity among surf-casters come the barracuda and Spanish mackerel. Both these species
of voracious predatory fish attain lengths of 6ft as do other species known locally as `giant perch’,
`threadfins’ and `tassel fish’ which frequent the estuaries.
Sri Lanka is much admired for its abundance of sub-aquatic life. Its unspoiled seas and fishing zones
hold an abundance of game fish for the keen angler. Species of Marlin, Sail Fish, Wahoo, Spanish
Mackerel, Giant Trevallie, Benito, Queen Fish (the world record is held in Sri Lanka. Barracuda,
Grouper, Cobia and Tuna make this beautiful island second to none when it comes to sea angling
The South west Breakwater of the Colombo Harbour is another popular venue for fishing. A licence
has to be obtained from the Colombo Port Authorities on a monthly basis for fishing at the
breakwater. Anglers have very big catches at this fishing site.
Inland trout fish
Nuwara Eliya is the best centre for trout fishing. As it is above the 6,000ft level, the climate is
temperate. There is good hotel accommodation. The fishing is, with few exceptions, restricted to fly
only and most common patterns of wet fly are successful. Dry fly is rarely used, there being little
natural fly. There is no statutory close season. Size limits vary from 8in to 15in.
The main waters are: Nuwara Eliya stream (flows through the golf course and park); Ambawela
stream (8m from Nuwara Eliya; jungle and grassland); Bulu Ella stream (21/2m jungle); Portswood
Dam (4m; tea estate); Agra Oya and Gorge Valley rivers (10-15m; tea estates), and the magnificently
spectacular Horton Plains stream (30m; jungle and grassland, Nature reserve). Motor transport can
be hired. On any of these waters it is possible to maintain an average of 1lb and several fish over 3lb
Trout fishing is now controlled by the Nuwara Eliya District Fishing Club. Stocking has so far been
carried out in Portswood Dam, the Horton Plains, Agra Oya and Gorge Valley. For licences
application should be made to the Honorary Secretary, Nuwara Eliya District Fishing Club, Court
Lodge Estate, Kandapola. Visitors are advised to bring their tackle as fly tackle is scarce in Sri Lanka.
The two main species of indigenous sporting fish in Sri Lanka are the mahseer and the walaya
(freshwater shark), found in the jungle rivers of the Low Country, particularly the Mahaweli river, the
upper reaches of the Kelani river and the Amban Ganga (river). Ceylon mahseer, though small
compared with those in some Indian rivers, provide good sport, but fishing for them can be
2. Fish species sold by fish vendors
Istiophorus platypterus (Thalapath)
Neothunnus macropterus (kelawalla)
Amblygaster sirm ( Hurulla)
Katsuwonus pelamis (Balaya)
Cybium commersoni (Bambara thora)
Sardinella melanura ( Salaya)
Classification of fishing gears
Fishing gears are commonly classified in two main categories: passive and active. This
classification is based on the relative behavior of the target species and the fishing gear. With
passive gears, the capture of fish is generally based on movement of the target species
towards the gear (e.g. traps), while with active gears capture is generally based on an aimed
chase of the target species (e.g. trawls, dredges). A parallel on land would be the difference
between the trapping of and hunting for animals.
PASSIVE FISHING GEARS
Hook and line fishing
Pots and traps
Passive gears are in general the most ancient type of fishing gears. These gears are most
suitable for small scale-fishing and are, therefore, often the gear types used in artisanal
fisheries. Some passive fishing gears are often referred to as "stationary" fishing gears.
Stationary gears are those anchored to the seabed and they constitute a large group of the
passive gears. However, some moving gears such as drift nets may also be classified as
passive gears, as fish capture by these gears also depend on movement of the target species
towards the gear.
The gillnet is named after its catching principle, as fish are usually caught by "gilling" - i.e.
the fish is caught in one of the meshes of the gillnet, normally by the gill region (between the
head and the body). Thus, fish capture by gillnets is based on fish encountering the gear
during feeding or migratory movements. As fish may avoid the gillnet if they notice the gear,
catches are normally best at low light levels or in areas with turbid water.
Today, gillnets are almost exclusively made from synthetic fibres, normally nylon
(polyamide) - either as multifilament thread or monofilament (gut). The latter is increasingly
being used because of its low visibility and correspondingly higher catch efficiency. Multimonofilament is also becoming more common.
Gillnets are most commonly operated as a stationary gear anchored to the bottom at either
end, but may also be so-called drift-nets which float freely in the water. Stationary nets may
be set on the seabed, at different depths in the water column or with the float line at the
surface. Similarly, drift-nets may be operated with the float line at the surface or suspended
from surface floats and corresponding float lines to the desired fishing depth in midwater.
Gillnets are used to catch a large variety of fish species. In general, bottom gillnets are used
for catching demersal species like cod, flatfish, croakers and snapper, while pelagic gillnets
are used for species like tuna, mackerel, salmon, squid and herring.
(b) Trammel nets
In trammel nets, fish are caught by entanglement, which is facilitated by its special
construction of three panels of nets attached on the same rope with a high degree of
Trammel nets are usually set and operated like bottom set gillnets, mainly in small-scale,
Trammel nets are used for catching a large variety of demersal fish.
2. Hook and line fishing
Different fishing methods are based on the use of fish hooks; longlining, trolling and various
forms of handlining such as jigging. The general catching principle of hook fishing is to
attract the fish to the hook and entice the fish to bite and/or swallow the hook so that the fish
becomes hooked and retained.
(a) Handlining and trolling
The fish is attracted to the hook by visual stimuli, either natural bait or more commonly in the
form of artificial imitations of prey organisms like lures, jigs, rubber worms etc.
Typical target species with handlining are demersal fishes like cod and snapper as well as
squid. Trolling is mainly directed towards pelagic species like mackerel, tuna and salmon.
The catching principle and construction of longlines are shown in Figure 4.
Longlining is based on attracting fish by bait attached to the hook. While handlining and
trolling generally exploit the visual sense of the fish to attract it to the hook by artificial lures,
longlining exploits the chemical sense of the fish. Odour released from the bait triggers the
fish to swim towards and ingest the baited hook with a high probability of being caught.
Pelagic (drifting) longlines are typically used for catching species like tuna, swordfish and
salmon, while bottom set longlines are used for demersal species like snapper, cod, haddock,
halibut, ling, tusk, hake and toothfish.
3. Pots and traps
Pots are considered within the International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishing
Gear to be a type of trap (Nédélec and Prado 1990) but are described separately here because
of the differences in catching principle and construction between pots and other forms of trap.
The general catching principle of pots (creels) and traps is to entice or lead the target species
into a box or compartment from which it is difficult or impossible to escape.
As with longlining, pot fishing is normally based on attracting target organisms by bait
(chemical stimuli). When attracted to the pot, the target organism must enter the pot to gain
access to the bait. This can be done through one or several entrances (funnels) of the pot.
Pots are most widely used to catch different crustaceans, like crabs, lobsters and shrimps.
Pots are also used for catching different species of finfish like sablefish, tusk and cod in
temperate waters and reef fish such as groupers in tropical waters. Other species that are
caught with pots are whelks and octopus.
Traps are normally not baited, but catch fish and other organisms by leading them into the
trap, eventually to the fish compartment, that is designed for holding the fish entrapped with
low possibility of escaping.
A variety of target species are caught by tidal traps, both finfish and crustaceans, e.g.
shrimps, naturally dominated by species living in the tidal zone. As mentioned above, traps
are traditionally used for catching cod and salmon (N. Atlantic), tuna (Mediterranean), small
pelagic species in Far East Asia, some species of weakfish (members of the Sciaenidae) and
others. Fyke nets are used for catching various species, but are particularly used for eel and
4. ACTIVE FISHING GEARS
1. Spears and harpoons
2. Trawls and dredges
3. Seine nets
4. Beach seines
5. Purse seines
6. Other fishing gears and devices
Fish capture by active gears is based on the aimed chase of the target species and combined
with different ways of catching it.
1. Spears and harpoons
This is one of the most ancient ways of active fish capture.
Capture with spears and harpoons depends on visual observation of the target species, which
is then impaled by the spear or harpoon from a relatively short distance.
Common target species with this fishing method are flatfish, swordfish, tunas and whales.
2 .Trawls and dredges
Trawls and dredges are often called towed gear or dragged gear.
Beam trawls are mainly used for catching flatfishes such as plaice and sole as well as for
different species of shrimp. Dredges are commonly used for harvesting scallops, clams and
mussels. Demersal otter and pair trawls are used to catch a great variety of target species like
cod, haddock, hake, sandeel, flatfish, weakfish, croakers as well as shrimps. Pelagic trawls
are used in the fisheries for various pelagic target species, like herring, mackerel, horsemackerel, blue whiting and pollock.
3. Seine nets
Seine netting (including two variations known as Danish seining and Scottish seining) can be
described as a combination of trawling and seining (see below). When setting the gear, the
first warp (rope) is attached to an anchor with a surface buoy (Danish seining) or a buoy only
(Scottish seining) and set in a semicircle. Then the seine bag is set before paying out the
second warp in another semicircle back to the buoy (attached to the anchor in Danish
seining). When the seine and warps have sunk to the bottom, the warps are hauled. As they
are tightened, the warps move inwards towards the centre line between the vessel and the
seine bag. Fish in the encircled area will then be herded towards the central part of the area.
As the warps are further tightened, the seine bag moves forward and catches the fish.
The seine net is still commonly used to catch different flatfishes such as plaice and sole, but
has in recent years become an important gear also for cod and other demersal target species.
4. Beach seines
The operation of beach seines is based on encircling fish schools by a netting wall, made of
webbing where the meshes are so small that the target species does not get entangled.
The beach seine is an ancient gear that is still widely used. The seine consists of a wall of
webbing, e.g. with a depth of 5m by 100m length, with an upper float line and a lower sinker
line. In principle a similar construction to the gillnet, but with smaller meshes so that the fish
is entrapped instead of being gilled or entangled. At either end of the seine there are long
Target species:-Beach seines catch a variety of inshore fish species, both demersal and
5. Purse seines
The purse seine is used to encircle fish schools in mid-water, close to the surface, by a netting
wall with small meshes. The lower part of the net is then closed to prevent escapement by
5. Identification of closely similar fish
1.1. Katsuwonus pelamis (Balaya) and Thunnus albacores (Yellowfin tuna)
yellow fin tuna
Both of them are belonged to the same family-Scombridae.
Presence of two dorsal fins.
First dorsal fin has spines and second dorsal fin has rays.
Presence of semidetached finlets on dorsal fin and anal fin.
Two operculum’s can be seen in both fishes
Thunnus albacores(Yellowfin tuna)
Belly and sides are silvery with 4-6
Belly and sides with small silvery elongate
spots with a dark edge.
Fins and finlets are dark except the white
colour of anal finlets.
Fins mostly bright yellow with dark tips.
1.2. Sardinella melanura (Salaya) and Amblygaster sirm (Hurulla)
Both are belonged in to the same family-Clupeidae
Similar in shape.
Presence of two operculums.
Presence of forked caudal fin.
Abence of dark spots with the lateral line.
Presence of about 15 dark spots with the lateral
Tips of caudal lobes are deep black and
other fins are hyaline.
Fins are yellowish.
Rastrelliger kanagurta (Kumbalawa) and selar crumenophthalmus (balaya)
Stream line body
Narrow caudal pedancle
Deeply forked caudal fin
Rastrelliger kanagurta (Kumbalawa)
Crumenoph thalmus (balaya)
Back is bluish green and silvery below with is
dark spots near the base of the dorsal fin
Back is bluish and silvery below
Dorsal and anal finlets present
Prominent scutes are present on the lateral line
6. Fish preservation methods
Fish preservation is the method of extending the shelf life of fish and other fishery products
by applying the principles of chemistry, engineering and other branches of science in order to
improve the quality of the products.
Preservation methods maintain the quality of fish for a longer period of time.
Proper steps in handling fresh fish
1. Avoid exposing the fish to sunlight. Keep them in a shaded area.
2. Ice the fish immediately after they are caught to lower their temperature.
3. Remove the gills and internal organs.
4. Avoid soaking the fish too long in the water after death as this easily spoils the fish.
5. Use mechanical refrigeration if there are facilities.
Methods of fish processing
e. With the use of additives or chemicals
Fish curing is defined as the method of preserving fish by means of salting, drying, smoking
a. Salting — Salt is the preservative agent used to lengthen the shelf life of fish and fishery
products. This is used in almost all methods of preservation except in icing, refrigeration and
Drying and Dehydration - Drying is the process in which moisture is removed by exposure
to natural air current as humidity is regulated by climatic condition. Dehydration is the
process of removing moisture with the use of mechanical device that provides artificial heat
Canning is the packing of fish in airtight containers such as tin cans and glass jars, which prevent air
and microorganisms from entering. Through the heat processing, microbes inside the can are
destroyed, thus preventing spoilage under normal condition and allowing the fish to be stored for
longer periods. Sardines and salmon are the most commonly canned fish in the market.
Cooking is the best way to prevent wastage or spoilage of fish. Cooking fish with vinegar,
like in paksiw, prolonged the period of preservation.
6. Quality of Fish
Fish is highly perishable food. Therefore the fish quality is very important before it is
consumed. The good quality fish give better taste and they are more nutritious. Low quality
fish may bring about series of health diseases that may even be fatal.
Quality is also important factor in limiting the demand of the fish. And it is also important to
gain consumer confidence and repeat sales.
The quality of a fish depends of the method of capture, preservation method, the time taken to
reach the consumer, etc.
The consumer should have the ability to identify good quality fish, when they are buying fish.
There are several features to identify good quality fish.
Factors Affecting Fish Quality
Scales and skin
Colour and Pigment
Characteristic pleasant odour
Bright and shining skin
Skin is not shining
Eyes are bright,transparent and
Eyes are flatten or sunken in to skin
Gills are bright red
Gills become browner ash and colous
Mucoid layer on the skin is trans
Not transparent and it turn into
Colour is clear
Scales are strongly attached to the
Scales are easily detache from skin
Flesh is hard
Flesh is soft
When a small pressure is applied and
release,the mark will disappear
The pressing mark wii remain in the
Wounds or patches on skin
Low microbial activity
High microbial activity
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild.
Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping.
The term fishing may be applied to catching other aquatic animals such as mollusk’s,
cephalopods, crustaceans, and echinoderms. The term is not normally applied to catching
farmed fish, or to aquatic mammals, such as whales, where the term whaling is more
According to FAO statistics, the total number of commercial fishermen and fish farmers is
estimated to be 38 million. Fisheries and aquaculture provide direct and indirect employment
to over 500 million people.]in 2005, the worldwide per capita consumption of fish captured
from wild fisheries was 14.4 kilograms, with an additional 7.4 kilograms harvested from fish
farms. In addition to providing food, modern fishing is also a recreational pastime.
Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture segment is an imperative segment with huge potential to
further develop into a thriving segment of the fisheries industry. There is a need to increase
fish production in minor perennial reservoirs, seasonal tanks and brackish water bodies
through culture based fisheries. As the country has an abundance of inland water bodies in
almost every region private sector investments are encouraged in inland fisheries and
aquaculture. Private sector has the opportunity to engage in brackish water aquaculture,
culturing Shrimp, Prawns, crab for the export industry, which has a huge demand at present.
Thus private sector investments are encouraged in the export oriented culturing of ornamental
marine fish varieties, which also has a huge demand in the international market.
The fish prices fluctuate during different seasons. Some fish are more abundant in one season
and very scarce in another season. If it’s a period where certain fish are abundant, then their
prices go down and when they become scarce the prices shoot up. The prices are also
influenced by the preference of the people. Mostly the larger fishers are preferred so as a
result larger fishers are more expensive. It is believed that large fish are tastier than small
ones. During the natural disasters the fish prices are affected. The best example is the
Tsunami catastrophe. At that time fish consumption nearly fell down to zero. It took some
time for the people to resume back to consuming fish. Fish prices also go down when oil
spills occur in the nearby coast. Many fish die and start to float in the coastal areas. At such
times people refrain from buying fish.
There are some fish species that are not that valuable as fresh fish. That may be because they
are hard to cook or the flesh is not tasty. Fishermen tend to salt and dry these fishes so that
the prices of that fish go up. Kattawa is one of such example.
Changes in weather conditions and natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, frosts,
earthquakes or pestilence, may affect the cost and supply of commodities, ingredients and
raw materials, including fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, grain, beef, sugar and spices.
Additionally, these events can result in reduced supplies of raw materials, lower recoveries of
usable raw materials, higher costs of cold storage if harvests are accelerated and processing
capacity is unavailable or interruptions in our production schedules if harvests are delayed.
Competing manufacturers can be affected differently by weather conditions and natural
disasters depending on the location of their supplies or operations. Changes in the weather
may also change the thermoclines in which fish such as tuna may be located. If fish are
driven to lower thermoclines, it may be harder for fishermen to catch these fish, which could
reduce the supply of tuna. In addition, some scientists believe that the population of some
larger fish species has been depleted due to over fishing, potentially affecting the current and
future supply of tuna. If our supplies of raw materials are reduced, we may not be able to find
enough supplemental supply sources on favorable terms, if at all, which could impact our
ability to supply product to our customers and adversely affect our business, financial
condition and results of operations. Increased costs for raw materials could also adversely
affect our business, financial condition and results of operations
Fish Species Sold By Fish Vendors
Fish Prices of Fish Market
Hook and Line
Identification of closely similar fish
Katsuwonus pelamis (Balaya) and Thunnus albacores (Yellowfin tuna)
Sardinella melanura (Salaya) and Amblygaster sirm (Hurulla)
Rastrelliger kanagurta (Kumbalawa) and selar crumenophthalmus (balaya)
Fish preservation methods
Quality of Fish
FISHERIES BIOLOGY & MANAGEMENT
COMMERCIAL FISHERIES OF SRI LANKA
I would like to express my sincere thankfulness to our lecture Prof. Amarasinghe for
conducting lecture series. Understanding and cheerful encourage not even throughout this
work, but all over our course unit
All the same I would like to thank all demonstrators and nonacademic staff
Of the department of Zoology for their unpredictable support on this work.