The Indian Ocean tsunami disaster that came from the sea exacted an inordinate toll from those that live from the sea beyond its deadly haul of 160,000 lives, destroying tens of thousands of fishing boats and other equipment that were the only source of income for many, according to United Nations figures released today.
The damage in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors is worse and more complex than expected, said the chief of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fishery Technology Service, Jeremy Turner. The agency has launched a concerted aid operation of relief and rehabilitation projects in the affected countries.
In Sri Lanka, where more than 7,500 fishermen were killed and over 5,600 are still missing, 80 per cent of coastal fishing vessels – nearly 20,000 boats – were completely destroyed or very seriously damaged, and 10 of the 12 main fishing harbours were completely devastated including ice plants, cold rooms, workshops and slipways. Replacement and repair of the boats alone is put at nearly $75 million.
FAO has already sent fishery experts to advise the Government on the repair and rehabilitation of fishing harbours and infrastructure, fishing boats and fishing gear.
In Indonesia, the worst-hit of the dozen countries ravaged by the 26 December tsunami, 70 per cent of the small-scale fishing fleet was destroyed in the Aceh area, home to 42,000 fishermen and their families. Two thirds of the fishermen in the capital, Banda Aceh, were killed while in nearby Nias Island 800 fishing canoes were destroyed. Fish farming was severely affected with about 1,000 fish cage farms completely destroyed.
In Thailand, 386 fishing villages with a population of 120,000 people lost some 4,500 fishing boats, and fishing gear was seriously damaged as were eight harbours and their infrastructure. Around 15,800 fishing cages were also damaged at a cost of $33 million. In some areas, seafood supplies have dropped by 90 per cent. FAO is preparing support measures, assisting in the repair of damaged vessels and infrastructure.
In the Maldives, where a very large part of the population depends on fishing for their livelihood, hundreds of boats and harbours were destroyed. FAO is planning to assist in the repair and replacement of boats, engines, gear and infrastructure.
Two thousand boats and 48,000 items of fishing gear were lost in India, some 300,000 fishermen have lost their jobs, and the country's seafood exports may decline by around 30 per cent as a result of the tsunami.
In Myanmar, where 200 villages lost vessels, gear and infrastructure, FAO is preparing for long-term relief and rehabilitation measures, while in Malaysia, the livelihoods of 6,000 people have been affected.
The country furthest removed from the epicentre of the earthquake that spawned the tsunami, Somalia, lost some 2,600 boats and FAO is assisting in needs assessments, preparing for the repair of damaged vessels, and will also provide short-term financial aid and training in improved fishing techniques and boatbuilding. People involved in salt collection were also affected.
Also off the African coast, coastal fish farms and artisanal fisheries in the Seychelles suffered extensively with a great number of vessels damaged or lost and two processing plants and cold storage facilities affected.