days at Kinross
Will over-fishing put the Sri
Lankan Spiny Lobster on the endangered species list?
Spiny lobsters sometimes referred to as crayfish
are found around the coast of Sri Lanka. They are of the family
Palimuridae and known to exist in other parts of Asia too. Spiny
lobsters lack the claws found in the North American variety. Lobsters
are a highly favoured food item in the USA, Europe and Japan.
local lobster fishery can meet only a very small percentage of the
demand from the export market. The primary local demand of the tourist
industry has declined due to the prevailing situation in the country.
The decline is also due to unrestricted over-fishing.
catching of female lobsters with eggs and the undersized is prohibited
by law, but the manpower required to monitor this situation is not
available. Occasionally however the airport customs do make a detection
and the cargo is confiscated and produced in courts where the court
orders that the lobsters be released into the sea in the case of
are nocturnal creatures that come out to feed only during the night.In
the daytime they hide in crevices in the reef. Night diving for
lobsters has proved to be the most effective method of catching
lobsters in Sri Lanka. Another method is the laying of nets.In Europe
and the USA , laying of traps is the common method used.
pioneer night diver in Sri Lanka was the late Dr. George de Bruin.
Dr.de Bruin, a Research Officer attached to the Department of Fisheries
ventured out at night to study the habits of the Spiny Lobsters
in the early 1960s. Diving underwater at night then, required courage
as there was the danger of being attacked by sharks, barracudas
and moray eels known to frequent tropical seas . Dr.de Bruin initially
used the Kinross Swimming & Life Saving Club as his base for
his underwater research. Incidentally, this club can boast of introducing
underwater diving in Sri Lanka.
Bruin had an able assistant and partner, S.M.Farook in his early
diving days.They would dive off at Wellawatte and in a matter of
one or two hours bring ashore about fifty kilos of lobster. Others
who joined them and later branched out on their own were T. Ariyaratne,
G. VanCuylenberg, B'Da Silva, S.M. Wahab, A.J. Thaha, H.S. Fernando
and C. de Almeida.
night diving the diver ventured out to sea after sunset with an
underwater torch, wearing thick cotton gloves. He would search for
lobsters in the crevices of the reef and catch them with his bare
hands thereby not harming the lobsters. Prior to this the diver
went out on the reef and with a hand spear speared the lobster.
this method a diver brought perhaps 1/2 a dozen or so dead lobsters
ashore. Night diving by 2 or 3 divers resulted in a catch of over
a hundred or hundred and fifty live lobsters. On most evenings in
those early days the verandah of the Kinross Club was literally
crawling with lobsters. These were sold to any member who cared
to buy them at fifty cents each. In the early 1960s only two tourist
hotels and a few restaurants served lobsters in Colombo. There was
no market for lobsters as this was somewhat alien to the Ceylonese
situation began to change when the export of live and frozen lobster
began around the late 1960s and early 1970s. Exporters went around
the island encouraging the fishermen to fish for lobster. Some even
gave them nets and taught them methods of lobster fishing. The export
agents would be on the beach and pay the fishermen immediate cash
for the lobsters.
boom in Sri Lanka’s tourism has also increased the demand
for lobsters. At present the fisherman is paid anything between
Rs. 800/- to Rs. 1000/- per kilo of lobster. Over-fishing is being
blamed for a marked decline in the catch of lobsters. A full grown
lobster of around 400 grams would be at least five years old. Catching
females with eggs and undersized lobsters disrupts the life cycle
of the species.
no serious attempt is made to tackle this situation we might soon
see the Sri Lanka Spiny Lobster on the list of endangered species.