Fishing and the Villages of Southern Sri Lanka: A Case Study
Fishing has been a mainstay industry in Sri Lanka for centuries, but it has been ravaged with political, economic, environmental disasters and social issues over the past century (Olstrom, 1990, Yamada, et al., 2006, Arunatilake et al., 2014). In the southern tip of Sri Lanka, lies the fishing village of Mawelle (Ostrom, 1990, p. 149). Southern Sri Lanka’s fishermen fish with beach seines (called madella or “big net”) that are half-mile long nets and were a source of economic stability for the individuals living in the region (Ostrom, 1990, p. 149).
During the early part of the 1900’s, the fishers in Mawelle devised elaborate rules regulating access to the fishing region and the number of nets utilized but they were not able to sustain a structured policy and rules controlling the number of nets to be used (Ostrom, 1990). With construction of new roads, an increase of population, and the increasing prices for fish by 1945, 71 nets were in use (Ostrom, 1990). With the expansive growth, the economic benefits diminished throughout Southern Sri Lanka and political corruption emerged, and policies were not enforced. Additionally, centralized government took over policy creation and enforcement that did not include local representation that had been in place since the early 1900’s (Ostrom, 1990). This solution was highly ineffective in controlling the entry of new fishers, which drove the system to a situation of virtual collapse where, at some point, more than 100 nets were being deployed at extremely low levels of productivity (Ostrom, 1990).
Sri Lanka has also experienced a series of socio-political disturbances over the past several decades including ethnic and religious divisions, economic upheavals, and the struggle and competition for natural resources that have also impacted fishing (Arunatilake et al., 2014). Sri Lanka was torn apart by a civil war in the 1980’s and 1990’s between the majority Sinhalese, and the minority Tamills (Yamada, et al., 2006, p. 39). These struggles have resulted in a steep rise in the scope and severity or armed conflicts and violence since the middle of 2006. Governance failures exacerbated by these armed conflicts have continued to feed social tensions in the south and throughout Sri Lanka’s fishing industry Arunatilake, et al., 2014). The limited supply of fish and increased cost of material and service resulting from the conflicts has raised the cost of production, processing and upgrading (Arunatilake, et al., 2014). “This combination of conflicts and factors has contributed to making the southern Sri Lankan fishery industry unduly expensive. (Arunatilake, et al., 2014, p. 29)”
On Sunday, December 26, 2004, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra sent several tsunami waves cascading toward Sri Lanka (Yamada, et al., 2006). “The tsunamis hit the eastern, southern, and southwestern coasts of Sri Lanka-more than...