100 dolphins killed off Lanka west coast

10 suspects arrested in Kalpitiya

Around 10 suspects who allegedly have killed about 100 dolphins were taken into custody with the support of Kalpitiya police on the west coast, and the Navy, reports Ceylon Today.

Architect of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary who is also a Naturalist  told Ceylon Today, that nearly 30 to 40 dead dolphins  were washed ashore yesterday in Kalpitiya due to illegal fishing with purse seines, also called ring nets or Laila net which is illegal for fishing. “These nets were coupled with dynamite targeting small tuna like species (bonitos, kawakawas etc. also called balaya, alagoduwa in Sinhala) while dolphins also fell prey.”

However, the Navy Media Spokesperson Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya said that there was no dynamite used to for fishing. He also said they unable identify illegal fishing nets and they were only to look out whether the fishermen were using explosives such as dynamites for fishing purpose.”

The naturalist continued: “Although there were about 40 dead dolphins on the Kalpitiya shore plenty more were washed away with the sea current.”

“This is the second time such a large number were killed. Last year too dolphins were killed in big number. But dolphins have been dying in smaller numbers for many years.  It is one of the most efficient forms of fishing in terms of catching entire schools, but highly destructive when coupled with dynamite and scuba. Coupling scuba and dynamite with this form of fishing will cause severe destruction of the sea animals altogether.”

He also added, “Unfortunately due to strong political linkages of the local mudalalis and local politicos who are financing this form of illegal fishing, the fisheries ministry has not been able to stop this form of illegal fishing. The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) also has nothing in the Bar Reef area  although the sanctuary is declared under Fauna and Flora P.O. and been so since April 1992.”

“All those schools of large fish that were present until mid 1990's have been systematically decimated. Even the black tip reef sharks that were common in the Bar Reef shallows are never to be seen now. So now the fisher folks are targeting the offshore species like the balaya that dolphins feed on.”

While Sri Lanka is considered to be a prime location for dolphins and whale we will not be surprised to read news that SL is poaching whales and dolphins.”

Wildlife expert Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne speaking to Ceylon Today said, “The swift response to the slaughter of dolphins in Kalpitiya flags a number of points. Firstly, that since Kalpitiya has become established for its whale and dolphin watching, a wide informal intelligence network of informants has arisen. Secondly, that there is huge public interest in marine mammals. Thirdly, the responses of the state agencies have been creditably swift. In January 2013, it was articulated that Sri Lanka has a strong claim to be the best all-round wildlife destination. The whales and dolphins are the jewel in the crown. Whale watching is a huge international industry and conservation of marine mammals is important for Sri Lanka’s economic interests and to provide sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities”.

National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) Chairman Dr. Samarasundera said, it’s truly an issue we have to take immediate measures. I was in Kalpitiya on Wednesday and we got the police and the navy to arrest the culprits. We are searching for the rest who are evading arrest.

He also said Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Rajitha Senaratne had given strict instructions to Police and Navy to arrest every one responsible and take maximum action against them.  So far 10 have been arrested. However, the Chairman told Ceylon Today that strict judiciary system has to be introduced with maximum punishment for poachers. He also said there is issue related to whale watching too and NARA will work closely with the Navy but NARA does not have control over illegal activities taking place in Kalpitiya and Mirissa.”

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