Sri lankan BSC FIP paves way to sustainability

Sri Lanka has had their fair share of tough times, a bloody 26-year civil war that ended in 2009, and a disastrous tsunami in 2004. Events that decimated many communities, and left survivors to try and pick-up the pieces as best they could. Needless to say this enabled a floodgate of UN and bilateral aid programs to help foster a new era of reconciliation, rehabilitation, and development. A by-product of these programs has been none other than Sri Lankan FIP Director, Dr. Steven Creech. To our benefit, Steve brings his experience and expertise working in with conflict affected and tsunami affected communities, and community development to lead the BSC FIP effort as the sustainability director for the Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL).

Married to a Sri Lankan and undoubtedly tied to the land, Steve has made Sri Lanka his home for almost twenty years. He takes the contentious issues that face the country to heart, and works tirelessly to address sustainability in BSC fisheries and the challenges that face coastal communities. None more so than the much disputed Indian trawlers that illegally fish in Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone. With support from the local Fishermen’s Cooperative Societies, the FIP has helped to give these communities a voice by enabling a dialogue with the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Fisheries, and other high-level government officials about how Indian trawlers negatively impact their livelihoods. Steve has written several features to a number of local newspapers on the issue:

The initial launch of the FIP was in 2013, with support from the NFI Crab Council and Timothy O’Reilly, of Taprobane Seafoods (TSF). Much of the development of the Sri Lankan BSC FIP must be credited to TSF and Tim, by being able to rally local suppliers, their supply-chains, and industry organizations such as SEASL to support the sustainability cause. Striving towards sustainability is now pillar of the Taprobane’s identity.

Through the direction of Steve and support from SEASL and TSF, the FIP was able to complete a Gap Analysis based on the MSC Standard, which focused a lot of energy towards on-the-ground fishery and community outreach. This is in contrast to a typical MSC Pre-Assessments or Gap Analysis that often are conducted by a consultant whom is flown in from overseas, and take only a few days of stakeholder meetings in conference rooms to derive information about the fishery. The Sri Lankan blue swimmer crab FIP completed other FIP reporting documents such as a Scoping Document and a FIP Action Plan that’s benchmarked to the MSC, and outlines a suite of fairly straightforward tasks to address fishery challenges and improve the fishery.

We could say that the Sri Lankan Blue Swimmer Crab FIP is tackling sustainability on all fronts. The FIP has generated goodwill and willingness from fisher communities and the public sector to engage in the effort, and commitment from the private sector, through SEASL, to improve the fishery towards achieving a sustainably managed fishery. Tim and Steve have been the Champions behind the initiative, their tireless efforts contribute to the progress that the FIP has made in a little over two years. Other BSC FIPs in the region could take a note or two of what is happening in Sri Lanka, for examples of approaches and initiatives that help to improve a BSC fishery.