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Thursday, 6 January, 2005

"Eat our fish" : Fishermen make plea to the Srilankan president

MIRISSA, Sri Lanka (AFP) - Sri Lanka's devastated fishermen sent a shipment of fish to the president as they pleaded with people to resume eating seafood in the wake of the Asian tsunami disaster.

At the southern fishing village of Mirissa, where around 300 boats support some 1,300 families, three boats of fishermen returned to sea Tuesday night and sent part of their catch north to the capital Colombo, relief workers said.

"There have been SMS messages going around suggesting that there was a virus in the fish, they even gave it a name, and it spread around like a bushfire," said Belgian Pierre Pringiers, whose company helped organise the president's fish shipment as a publicity stunt as part of its relief work.

"Look, there are boats out there on the water. Now they have to go out. This is a very small beginning," he said.

Fisherman Lasantha Jayasooriya, 30, told AFP he was afraid to go back out in his boat after the disaster which killed more than 30,000 Sri Lankans but was willing to go because he needed to earn an income.

"There are many fish on the boat today but we cannot send it to the market because nobody will buy it," he said, standing in the shade of one of the damaged boats tossed from the harbour onto high ground like a toy.

The fishermen who have survived and their families have no other way to earn an income, Pringiers said.

"If they don't get back into fishing, they're in trouble. This whole coastal belt has no revenue at all. We have to get them back to a state of taking responsibility for their lives," Pringiers said.

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