Supporting Sea Change in Sri Lanka

Supporting Sea Change in Sri Lanka

Project: marine conservation in Sri Lanka, in partnership with the community

2022 Project Partner: Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS)

Sii Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society is committed to the protection of Sri Lanka’s endangered wildlife through conservation research and community engagement.

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About Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS)

The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) was established in 1997 with a mission to enable communities to balance ecosystem protection and economic development by pioneering a model for sustainable conservation. SLWCS is a non-governmental organisation committed to helping people, elephants and other wildlife co-exist peacefully.

Community-Led Conservation

SLWCS practice holistic, community-based conservation methods, based on sound scientific research and the needs of the local people to manage the local ecosystem, protect communities and their livelihoods, and ensure the long-term protection of  endangered wildlife.

They conduct scientific research on Sri Lanka’s most endangered wildlife species, including elephants,carnivores, marine life and even butterflies.

Kalpitiya and Sri Lanka’s North-West Coast

Kalpitiya sits on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka and consists of 14 islands, and the Puttalam Lagoon. Three species of marine turtles nest on the beaches here, and 28 species of whales and dolphins including the globally threatened Dugong is found in the offshore waters and in the Puttalam Estuary. The dugong, which was common a few decades ago, is now very rare.
The most extensive coral reefs of Sri Lanka are also found in the seas around Puttalam including the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary—the largest marine protected area in Sri Lanka. It has high ecological, biological and aesthetic significance, with 156 species of coral and 283 species of reef fish.
The Puttalam Lagoon is home to one of the largest tracts of mangrove habitats in Sri Lanka – mangroves are a powerful tool against climate change,  sequestering four times more carbon than rainforests. Carbon stored by marine and coastal ecosystems is called ‘Blue Carbon’. The mangroves also provide a vital breeding ground and nursery for a multitude of aquatic wildlife, including ‘commercial’ fish which spawn here. They play an important role in protecting the coastline from erosion and flooding, and guard against storm surges and other weather-related events exacerbated by climate change.
The mangroves, seagrass meadows, reefs, estuaries, lagoons and wetlands of Sri Lanka are vital for biodiversity and socio-economic development.

A Coastline Under Threat

The local community rely heavily on fishing. Fish products remain the major source of protein in local diets in Sri Lanka. Given the high number of people reliant on Sri Lanka’s marine resources, there is a clear need for a long-term, sustainable approach to their management.​ However, a lack of education around sustainable fishing and marine protection intensify the threats to the marine environment. Threats include poaching, over-harvesting and habitat encroachment, bycatch and plastic pollution.
Plastic Pollution
Plastic bottles make up nearly 80% of all plastic that is released to the sea. The fishing communities in the Kalpitiya Peninsula alone dump 5 million plastic water bottles annually into the ocean. These fishermen use large plastic bottles filled with water as boat beach rollers to launch and beach their fishing boats. The bottles are destroyed during this process and subsequently discarded, usually into the sea. This poses a major threat to the entire marine environment – plastic gets entangled in the root system of mangroves and seagrass beds and the destruction of these in the lagoon and along the coast has accelerated.

Solution-based Conservation

There are two main strands to the marine conservation project we are supporting in Kalpitiya – the project is designed on collaborative spirit with elements of eco-tourism, green technology and sustainable community development:

the primary aim is to distribute reusable boat beach rollers to eliminate the dumping of nearly 5 million plastic water bottles into the ocean and lagoon annually;

any additional funds will be used to initiate a mangrove nursery to propagate 15,000+ seedlings. These seedlings will help to establish new mangrove forests  – 15,000 seedlings will cover approximately 5 hectares / 30,000 seedlings will cover 10 hectares.

  • Reusable Boat Rollers

The short-term aim is to prevent plastic pollution of this scale from happening in Kalpitiya. By distributing reusable boat beach rollers to the target fishing communities we hope to achieve immediate results. Additionally by working cooperatively with the community to raise awareness about the issues we can in the long-term prevent the use of plastic bottles to launch & haul boats.

The Project will be based in an island in the Dutch Bay Government Administrative Division consisting of four fishing villages. The plan is to work with this cluster of fishing villages initially.

  • Restoring Mangroves

The local fishing communities, schools and women’s organisations in the area can re-plant the mangroves and restore this vital ecosystem while also helping to combat climate change. Through community participation we hope to raise awareness and encourage local people to become better stewards of the environment which in turn will help to safeguard livelihoods and further develop alternative income opportunities – for example mangrove-based ecotourism/birdwatching/whale and dolphin tours.

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Images: EAE and SLWCS



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