04/11/2024, 14.35
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Mundalama: thousands of dead fish on shore, fishermen denounce shrimp industry

by Melani Manel Perera

Local people suspect that companies in the area are releasing harmful chemicals into the waters. For days, fishermen have been calling for intervention by the authorities to understand what has led to the death of so many fish. 

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Thousands of fish have died in the lagoons of Sri Lanka where local fishermen work. The die-off began last Saturday, they explained, and worsened the following day.

Although the competent authorities were informed about the incident, there was no intervention, generating a disastrous situation for fishermen, who have long claimed that their work is already hindered by climate change.

“No official from the Ministry of Fisheries has yet come to see the situation for themselves. A large number of fishermen have been affected,” a fisherman from the Mundalama lagoon told AsiaNews.

Marthenu Fernando, president of the St. James Fisheries Society, said “shoals of fish were floating on the water and thousands were washed ashore up to three kilometers out to sea.” A situation that has impacted at least 1,000 fishermen who depend directly on the lagoon for their livelihood.

According to environmental organisations, those responsible for the damage are to be found among the shrimp companies, which would release harmful chemical substances into the surrounding waters.

Prasanna Sanjeewa, a young fisherman, believes that "the incorrect functioning of the estuaries could also play a role in the death of fish, because adequate maintenance is not done in this area".

The smell of rotting carcasses has spread to homes, schools and other buildings in the area, preventing a series of daily activities from being carried out. “We don't know why the authorities didn't pay attention to our lagoon,” commented other local sources.

Ajith Gihan, of the All Ceylon Public Fishermen's Federation, speaking to the media, also asked the local authorities a series of questions: “Why is this happening to innocent fishermen? Why do fish die? What happened to the lagoon water? Why don't the authorities look for scientific reasons? There is a Ministry of Fisheries, a department and a dedicated agency: why don't they look into this situation to protect the people's livelihoods?”

Some local officials said they were aware of the incident and said they would conduct a formal investigation with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency.

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