Sri Lanka collaborates with Blue Planet Fund

2 months ago
Kanesu Balasuresh

Kanesu Balasuresh

The first Blue Planet Fund (BPF) - Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) Biodiversity Stakeholder Session was held on 14 March, at the Ministry of Environment introducing the Defra led BPF visit to Sri Lanka while the second meeting of the BPF – OCPP took place on the same day with the Fisheries and Seafood Sector related agencies. The £500 million Blue Planet Fund, financed by the UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget, supports developing countries to protect the marine environment and reduce poverty and was developed by the UK government to protect the ocean from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing. This includes the UK’s call to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 and the UK’s existing commitments to stopping plastic pollution from entering the ocean through the joint UK and Vanuatu-led Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance.

One of the Fund’s programmes is the newly designed bilateral technical assistance programme which is based on scoping and needs assessments, ocean partnerships and emergency marine pollution responses. The OCPP aims to deliver marine science technical assistance and the three core themes of marine pollution, biodiversity loss and supporting sustainable seafood and supports countries in strengthening marine science expertise, developing science-based policy and management tools, and educating coastal communities. The OCPP has the ultimate aim of delivering tangible and positive impacts on the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on healthy marine ecosystems. The OCPP's current partners are Belize, Bangladesh, India, Maldives and the Pacific.

During the first session, the Deputy High Commissioner for the British High Commission in Sri Lanka, Lisa Whanstall thanked those present for their collaboration and stated that she looks forward to future partnerships. She further commended the Government of Sri Lanka for the wide-ranging cooperation and commitments at UNFCCC COP-26. She stated that “…Moving forward the UK is eager to continue supporting Sri Lanka to achieve these targets and to build on our exiting platform of environmental engagements.”The UK government had spent close to £1million under the Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP) to provide assistance in combating marine pollution in 2021.Assistance via CLiP provided laboratory facilities to analyze microplastics to MEPA, NARA, ITI and the CEA, development of educational packs for primary and secondary schools and developing media packs for mainstream and social media all in local languages, research collaboration, assessment of ghost fishing gear and accumulated waste in ports, providing garbage trapping nets for rivers, etc. The UK delegation expressed their willingness to continue supporting Sri Lanka to help drive transformative action and shift the relationship between people, science and the planet.

He further stated that among economic activities, tourism and fisheries are the most dependent on the natural resources of the coast and that according to the statistics, coastal and marine fisheries, tourism, industry, maritime transport (ports and shipping), are some of the major economic activities associated with the coastal and marine resources and environment that generate 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings and account for 6.7% of employment.

The Blue Planet fund will aim to provide the support that would ensure seafood in Sri Lanka is produced and distributed in ways which support healthy ecosystems, do not over-exploit marine stocks, provide sustainable inclusive and equitable livelihoods and enhance resilience to climate and socioeconomic shocks. The OCPP Programmes will also incorporate cross-cutting themes such as gender and vulnerable groups, climate change, economic shocks, etc.

State Minister for Ornamental Fish, Freshwater Fish and Shrimp Farming, Fisheries Harbour Development, Multi-Day Fishing and Fish Exports Kanchana Wijesekara thanked the UK government, the Blue Planet Fund and the UK-High Commission for their offer to collaborate. The State Minister stated that over 80% of Sri Lanka's fish stocks have depleted with a significant effect on tourism. He emphasized on post-harvest losses(40%); insufficient availability of technical advice, the need for a stronger legal framework and monitoring/management of marine resources are the main areas of concern. The State Minister further requested assistance to develop aquaculture and sustainable fishing and added that the State Ministry will give its fullest support to the relevant agencies for the collaboration under BPF – OCPP.

During the Wrap-Up session organized with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, the UK team offered to continue building on existing marine pollution, marine biodiversity and sustainable seafood related activities focusing on Outreach and Education, Science, Governance and Policy under each theme. Other key highlights on potential areas for collaboration included assistance for Marine Spatial Planning, assessing marine natural capital, support for effective management of Marine Protected Areas in line with the 30 x 30 initiative that Sri Lanka is already a part of, support for enhancing capabilities of Sri Lanka for maritime disaster preparedness, support to strengthen sustainable seafood production and trade and support to reduce IUU fishing in national waters.

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