Sri Lanka Tuna
Fishery Improvement Project

Last Update: April 2016


Species: yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares); bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)
FIP Scope/Scale: Fishery and stock level
Fishery Location: Sri Lanka EEZ, Indian Ocean 
For map see:
Fishery Link
Yellowfin tuna – Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka & IOTC
Bigeye tuna – Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka & IOTC
FIP Contact:  if you would like more information about the FIP or wish to support the FIP, please contact SFP.
FIP Participants:
Sustainability Information:
See Summary page in the above links
Date Publicly Announced: 2011
FIP Stage: 4, FIP is delivering improvement in policies or practices
Current Improvement Recommendations:
  • Support IOTC in setting a Harvest Control Rule for each species
  • Promote improvements in catch reporting, including bycatch data
  • Monitor and reduce IUU
  • Encourage bycatch mitigation measures, such as gear modifications and change in fishing operations (time, depth, area, bait type)

In 2009, SFP commenced a strategic FIP in the Indian Ocean to support fishery-level improvements in the longline tuna fisheries of Sri Lanka. This engagement arose from a roundtable of key United Kingdom (UK) tuna buyers and their suppliers convened by SFP in Brussels in April 2010.
The Indian Ocean longline tuna fishery presents several challenges:
  • Bigeye and yellowfin tuna biomass trajectories indicate that the spawning stock biomass is currently slightly above the MSY level, but it has been declining since the 1980s.
  • Similarly, the current fishing mortality exerted in bigeye tuna is estimated be to just below the MSY level, but has been increasing steadily since the 1980s. In yellowfin, fishing mortality is at present at MSY level but was exceeded for the previous 4 years.
  • Catch reporting is still weak in some RFMO member countries and IUU continues to be a major issue. (Note – In 2014 the EU issued Sri Lanka with a yellow card for failing to comply with IOTC Directives.)
  • Bycatch of many species is a concern, particularly of pelagic sharks, which in several cases are of conservation concern as they are listed by IUCN as “vulnerable” or “endangered.” 
SFP did the exploratory work to examine deficiencies in the fishery with the host country and producers through spring 2010, after which it operationalized the FIP workplan needed to start the improvement work. This is the first of many FIPs on the same stocks of yellowfin and bigeye tuna in the Indian Ocean region that together will yield stock-level improvements with a common set of expectations and rules for fisheries and markets alike.
The United Kingdom (UK) preferentially consumes three species of fish: cod, salmon, and tuna. Historically, around 80 percent of the fresh tuna exported from Sri Lanka was consumed in the UK. However, in 2011 this percentage declined to approximately 25 percent, and the market in other European countries increased. Therefore, while there is still a mutual interest among UK retailers and fresh tuna importers in the sustainability of the tuna fisheries, the FIP is looking to extend its participation to other companies in continental Europe.
FIP Objectives:
  • Support setting a Harvest Control Rule for each species
  • Promote improvements in catch reporting, including bycatch data
  • Monitor and reduce IUU
  • Encourage bycatch mitigation measures, such as gear modifications and change in fishing operations (time, depth, area, bait type)
Progress Update: 
  • Indian Ocean yellowfin and bigeye tuna - FishSource profiles live
  • Roundtable of key UK tuna buyers
  • Meeting between Sri Lanka Fisheries Minister & FIP participants
  • Stakeholders met with National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) in Sri Lanka
  • FIP agreement signed, formal launch of the project
  • IOTC meeting held in Sri Lanka           
January – March
  • FIP met with NARA and DFAR In Sri Lanka
  • Fishing logbooks implemented by Sri Lanka Authorities 
April – June
  • FIP met with Minister Commercial & Economic Affairs in Belgium
  • Sri Lanka engaged in IOTC & TAC negotiations
  • Sri Lanka government “working cell” established to improve data collection
  • IOTC recommendation of interim target and limit reference points for the major IOTC species
July – September
  • FIP summary workplan agreed and available online
  • FIP detailed workplan agreed and available online
October – December
  • FIP local coordinator hired
  • EC warned Sri Lanka in risk of being a non-cooperative country in the fight against IUU
  • FIP met with NARA and DFAR in Sri Lanka
January – March
  • FIP letter to IOTC advocating HCR
  • FIP/DFAR logbook training workshop in Sri Lanka
  • FIP met with NARA and DFAR in Sri Lanka
April – June
  • IOTC adoption of interim target and limit reference points for the major IOTC species
  • Observers Program proposal submitted to the Sri Lanka Seafood Exporters Association (SEA)
  • Commitment ensured from SEA companies to support logbook training sessions in July, August, and September
  • EU Commissioner Damanaki speech recognizing Sri Lankan credible progress in moving to an effective fisheries control system.
July – December
  • FIP developed plan for awareness materials for Sri Lanka longline fishers.
January – March
  • Executed MoU between DFAR, FIP Funders, NARA and SLSEA on the Sri Lanka Fisheries Scientific Observer Pilot Programme, setting out expectations of each party in the project.
April – September
  • The DFAR observers trained under the FIP were handed over their insurance, contracts, and appointment letters by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources at a ceremony held at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on 10 September 2014.
  • Observer deployment anticipated for the 4th quarter of 2014.
  • Sri Lanka has been given a further 3-month extension to fulfill obligations imposed by the European Union to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices or face a ban on fish exports to EU countries.
  • Proposal to establish stakeholder group in Sri Lanka to help coordinate and facilitate work on the ground (SLSEA, DFAR, and vessel owners).
October – December
  • The pilot observer program commenced with an initial voyage beginning on October 1. The observer has been trained in IOTC observer requirements and equipped with safety and scientific equipment.
  • The first Sri Lanka national observer completed a 7-day trip, collecting scientific data on longline fishing activities. The data will contribute to improving the understanding of the fishery and marine environment at national and international levels.
  • Further pilot trips are being planned with the expectation that the program will be rolled out across the fleet.
  • The fishery does, however, face a major setback, as the EU Commission announced on October 14:
“So today, the Commission goes to the next level: we are formally identifying Sri Lanka in the fight against illegal fishing. Fisheries products caught by vessels flagged in Sri Lanka will not be able to enter the EU market after three months' time from now. The Council will, by that time, have the possibility to confirm and extend the depth and scope of the trade measures.”  
  • The FIP is drafting a 2015 workplan, which will focus on addressing the issues identified by the EU in addition to previously identified improvements, including compliance and elimination of IUU.

January – March
  • FIP has signed agreements with NARA and CINEC for finalizing the training of the observers participating in the pilot observer program supporting DFAR.
  • Government cancelled fishing licences given to eight Chinese companies to fish in international waters under the Sri Lankan flag, after they were found to have violated the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
  • 14 January, The European Union applies a prohibition on import of Sri Lanka caught seafood products
April – June
  • FIP expresses support to the Sri Lanka Government regarding moves to combat IUU and agrees to explore local ownership of the project.
July – August
  • FIP continues to monitor Sri Lanka initiatives to combat IUU but places the FIP workplan on hold.
January – March
  • FIP participants explore assuming ownership of the FIP, pending developments regarding the EU Red Card.
  • The European Commission lifts trade ban on seafood from Sri Lanka. Click here for related news clip.




Click here for a more comprehensive description of FIP results