Innovate and Protect
Daniel Fernando explains how development could safeguard marine resources in a failing economy
Q: How should an economically deprived nation like Sri Lanka strike a balance between science and policy?
A: A strong economy relies on sound political decisions and a healthy environment. In reality, a large gap between science and policy is still prevalent in Sri Lanka. While opportunities to significantly benefit from the available natural wild resources exist, effective political decisions are lacking and rarely consider scientific knowledge.
Coral reefs are marketed for tourism while calls to expand the fisheries sector have the potential to destroy these same reefs. A blind eye is turned towards illegal dynamite fishing, which negatively impacts both marine habitats and fishing communities that rely on these reefs.
We face a situation in which numerous signs of overfishing are ignored and not considered in policy decision-making, and perceived as going against ‘development.’
Q: How should the concept of collective action for the ocean be implemented in a local context?
A: Wherever we live, we’re all connected to our ocean. The overuse of pesticides in hill country crops results in the excess flowing into rivers and invariably into the ocean. The oceans play a crucial role in regulating global temperatures, providing oxygen and contributing to the water cycle; all ultimately impacting hill country agriculture.
The connections between the oceans and other natural environments highlight the need for collective action. Simple steps – reducing overall seafood consumption or ensuring consumed species are sustainably captured – can make a huge difference as do actions such as eliminating single use plastics.
While it seems like small steps, collective action can have a large impact. However, political interventions are also needed in order for large industries to take necessary action. Both a bottom-up and a top-down strategy are required to succeed and positively impact our ocean.
Q: Will the prioritisation of economic growth weaken our ecosystems further?
A: Sri Lanka needs to recognise that other countries have gone through similar failing economies and that the more successful countries are those that’ve considered the environmental impact when policy making.
Sri Lanka could gain sustainable and long-term benefits through increasing the protection of its natural wildlife and ecosystems. For instance, by either expanding existing protected areas or creating new marine protected areas and national parks.
Although it’s often believed that economic growth must be prioritised over nature or the environment to succeed – clearing forests to make way for income generating factories – in reality, there are alternatives. Carbon credit schemes or debt swaps are globally tried and tested methods, generating significant foreign exchange through large-scale, long-term financial commitments.
It’s all a matter of innovative thinking to improve conservation and the protection of our natural environment, in turn benefiting all aspects of the nation in the long term.
It’s all a matter of innovative thinking to improve conservation and the protection of our natural environment, in turn benefiting all aspects of the nation