On behalf of the Board of Management of LKIIRSS I wish to welcome all our distinguished guests to the Seminar on “ Sri Lanka’s Ocean Resource: Our Hidden Gold Mine”.
I would like to warmly welcome our distinguished speakers for today. We have 10 eminent personalities from Sri lanka from the field of Ocean and one foreign contributor who will do a video presentation who is also my fellow Young Global Leader Ms. Kala Mulqueeny from ADB. I thank all the speakers for accepting our invitation and taking time off from their busy schedules to participate in this seminar.
According to our Institutes article from 2006 we have been vested with a mandate to focus beyond international relations and environment and agriculture is part of our strategic interest areas.
In 2012 we had two Ocean lectures the first with a British Scholar Mr. John Church Who spoke about a Fisheries Management System and then we had Ms.Asha de Voz who spoke about the Giants of our Ocean.
This year I am happy to convene this important seminar focusing the importance of our Ocean. When I first came up with this idea after a casual discussion with Dr.Delgoda who is one of our speakers I quickly tried to gather two panels who could discuss and educate our public on what’s really happening in our waters.
Every week we hear from the media about many disruptive practices in our Ocean.
We hear the economic potential of our Ocean.We hear of the undiscovered hydrocarbons.We hear about the beauty of our Ocean.We hear about Sri Lankas strategic positioning and its political context.
My first own discovery of our ocean was after the Asian Tsunami in 2004 where I was appointed as the Chairman Fishery Harbours to rebuild the damaged coastal belt. I learned about many challenges and opportunities we have and how fisheries could contribute more than 2% of the GDP. I found out that the last stock assessment was done in 1982 and we don’t have a vessel monitoring system in place. I implemented a system but I am not sure if its developed any further now. With a team I had the privilege of launching the first government whale and dolphin-watching program. This was a great start for today’s marine tourism. But I emphasized on strict regulations such as boat operator license.
I congratulate for introducing the OHI Ocean Health Index by Greg Stone and the group of Scientist which I think is remarkable. According to World Economic Forum Ocean Council let me share few facts I believe is very useful.
Oceans are the primary life support system of the planet, and humanity is dependent on their sustainable use.Therefore multi stakeholder engagement with solutions aligning science, policy and business must be made in order to ensure the sustenance of the ocean.The services provided by the Ocean, in the form of provision of food, oxygen and, water and climate regulation have been estimated to value over US$ 21 Trillion where as the maritime transport contributes to 90% of global trade volume. The global fisheries sector is estimated to create 180 million job opportunities while acting as the primary source of protein for more than 1 billion of the world population.
However, according to a landmark study, brought forward by the World Bank and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, documented at least US$ 50 billion in lost benefits that could be realized annually from better organization and management of marine fishing.
We have an ocean surrounded by us which is seven times more than the land. We have submitted a claim to the UN for more area. Our EEZ is 532619 Sq.Km and this is a gold mine if its managed properly.
I would like to conclude with this quote by Sylvia Earle “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you are connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live”
*Speech delivered by Asanga Abeygoonesekara at the Seminar “Sri Lanka’s Ocean Resource : Our Hidden Gold Mine” on the 20th of February 2013