Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India

Volume 56 Issue 1

Exploratory drilling for hydrocarbon resources in the Cauvery basin: Potential impacts on artisanal fishery and fishing grounds of Sri Lanka

J. M. P. K. Jayasinghe
doi: 10.6024/jmbai.2014.56.1.01750s-10

Fisheries sector contribute around 1.7 to the GDP and provide 65% of the animal protein requirement of the communities in Sri Lanka. Present per capita fish availability of Sri Lanka is 16.1 kg, and is expected to increase to 21 kg. The sector provides employment to around 6,50,000 people. Marine fish production contributes around 85% to the total fish production and is the most important sub sector in the fisheries industry of the country. The government of Sri Lanka has identified five blocks in the Cauvery basin off the west coast of Sri Lanka for exploratory drilling for hydrocarbon resources and production upon successful discovery. These blocks are in artisanal fishing grounds where fishers from 200 bordering villages are engaged in fishing and fishery related activities. Main activities associated with hydrocarbon exploration include seismic exploration, structural emplacement, well drilling, decommissioning or well abandonment. Hydrocarbon exploration activities will restrict the areas available for fishing and obstruct the navigational paths of the fishing vessels. Leakages from drilling equipments, ballast water discharges from dredging vessels, mud and dredging material discharges, accidental oil spills and oil leakages from ships are other concerns. There will be movement restrictions to fish and disturbances to fish due to sound waves. Socio-economic impacts on fishermen due to exploratory activities include loss of opportunities for fishing, restrictions on fishing grounds, reduced fishing time, reduced fish catches and health hazards. Chemical pollution due to discharge of drill mud, drill cutting, bilge water and sewage and accidental spills and blowouts can affect the general health of fishers. Mitigation of impacts due to seismic exploration, structural emplacement,  well drilling, decommissioning or well abandonment and compensation for artisanal fishermen in the event of reduced fishery activities are suggested to minimize social and environmental impacts of the exploration activities.


Marine fisheries, hydrocarbon exploration, artisanal fishing, environmental impacts.

Date : 15-10-2014