Fifty-eight minutes is all it took for the December 26, 2004 tsunami to travel roughly 2800 miles from Sumatra, Indonesia, to the west coast of Sri Lanka. Within two hours from the time of first impact on the east coast of the island country, almost the entire parameter of Sri Lanka was affected by the massive wave, which killed tens of thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Nine more countries reported effects from the tsunami.
A month later, reported estimates of human loss range between 225,000 to almost 300,000, depending on the source and date of the report.
Second to Indonesia, Sri Lanka reported the most losses and endured the most damage of all other countries impacted. The countrys Disaster Management Centre reports approximately 31,000 deaths, 500,000 displaced individuals, and 80,000 displaced families in the coastal regions. Fishing-community activists report higher numbers than those reported by the Centre.
Loss of fishing boats, equipment, motors, infrastructure, and other fishing community assets in Sri Lanka and other affected countries have only compounded the human loss.
So why should you care about the Sri Lankan fishing communities?
Sri Lankas seafood exports are unimpressive, making it unlikely that the average American seafood lover will be feasting on fish caught in those waters.
Regardless of his/her taste for seafood, anyone concerned about conserving and protecting the worlds oceans and fisheries should care how fishing communities such as those in Sri Lanka are rebuilt.
The prized possessions of the affected countries severely compromised by the tsunami are the small-scale fishing communities of the region. Their tradition of using lower- impact fishing methods employed at lower scales and rates have less impact on the marine ecosystem and higher contributions to their local fishing economies. In contrast, the industrial-scale, factory fishing and aquaculture operations, with sights fixed on the current vacuum created by the tsunami-stricken state of the southeast Asian fishing communities, follow the agri-business model, which has already left its destructive mark on the global food supply, land use, and small-scale farmers.