By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
The government has given the go-ahead for Pacific White Legged Shrimp (Litopenaeus Vannamei) farming in Mannar, but environmentalists warn of the potential negative impacts of the new project and demand to know what methods will be used to ensure that the new activity is bio-secure.
Environmentalist and Senior lawyer Jagath Gunawardana told The Island that risks had to be taken into consideration as the potential environmental impact of L. Vannamei shrimp farming was significant.
According to the National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA), the new species has already been imported to Sri Lanka for a pilot project to be carried out by a private company in the Mannar District.
Chairman of NAQDA, Attorney At Law Upali Mohotti told a media briefing at Fisheries Ministry in Maligawatta on Tuesday (12) that the imported new shrimp species would not be released into the natural water reservoirs and it had been imported only for the commercial shrimp cultivations carried out in shrimp ponds.
It was not the first time the L. Vannemei shrimp species had been imported, Mohotti said. The same species had been imported in 2012, he said.
According to Gunawardana, the importation of new shrimp species to Sri Lanka is illegal as proper legal procedure has not been followed.
Gunawardena said that, according to National Policy on Invasive Alien Species, under the risk assessment guidelines, it was mandatory to reveal the risk management system designed to mitigate potential adverse effects, and under Section 37 of Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO), no import of wild animal was permitted except under the permit issued by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).
Gunawardana stressed that the NAQDA had not sought the approval of DWC and, therefore, it was not clear how the Sri Lanka Customs had permitted the NAQDA to bring down the new shrimp species.
Referring to the Indian and Thailand research reports on L. Vannemei shrimp species, Gunawardana noted that L. Vannamei had the potential to be either a competitor or a predator of P. monodon known as the tiger shrimp, the local species grown for the purpose of aquaculture, as per the trend observed, and that L. vannamei carried infectious diseases.
NAQDA Chairman Mohotti admitted that his outfit had not sought the approval of DWC as the shrimp species was being imported by a private company and the NAQDA had only given its approval for the import of the shrimps.
The issue was discussed in the Economic Research Council (ERC), headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently and the council instructed the NAQDA to permit the importation of L. Vannemei shrimp species to Sri Lanka.
Gunawardana said: “The main concern with importing is the transfer of diseases to our country, with each shipment. Also, the validity of the host country’s certification indicating that these species are disease free is debatable. Therefore, testing for diseases is a tedious process and needs a streamlined mechanism, since random sampling would not be valid in this case. Any transfer of diseases would be a cost to the environment.”
Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the L. Vannemei shrimp species had been cultivated a long time in many other countries and, therefore, he requested the public not to panic.
Amaraweera said the Vannemei farming would be monitored by the NAQDA and it would not be introduced to Puttalam and Chilaw Districts of the country.