The Marine Biological Resources Division (MBRD) is vested with the responsibilities of carrying out research towards management, development and conservation of marine living resources and ecosystems.The division has multidisciplinary research priorities,more importantly with research strengths in both biological and biotechnological research.The main tasks of MBRD includes (a) supporting the conservation and management of marine biological resources, habitats and ecosystems; (b) to provide advice and services to national, regional and international bodies on marine conservation and management; and (c) to sensitize the public at large on issues related to the conservation of marine biological resources, habitats and ecosystems. In addition, MBRD responds to a number of requests made by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MFARD) and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) in Sri Lanka by providing recommendations to resolve problems on the exploitation of marine fishery resources.
The MBRD staff is actively engaged in updating the large pelagic and small pelagic fishery databases, analyzing the fisheries data, preparing national statistics on large pelagic fish production and preparing various reports and publications on trends and prospects of large pelagic and small pelagic fisheries in Sri Lanka. Reports are sometimes submitted to the DFAR for settling fishing disputes.On court orders, fish samples are analyzed by MBRD to determine whether the fish contained in the samples have been killed by using explosives. The MBRD staff also appears at Magistrate Courts in order to provide expert evidences regarding dynamite cases handled by the Police and DFAR. In addition, on court orders, MBRD provides various types of other reports, mostly relating to the violation of excising laws and regulations implemented by the fisheries and wildlife acts.
One of the other important activities carried out by the division includes supporting management and conservation of highly migratory and shared fisheries resources, through conducting research on such species and providing fisheries statistics for regional fisheries management organizations such as Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). In addition, MBRD conducts various under water surveys and resource surveys with the aim of determining the present status of the key biological resources and sensitive habitats such as coral reefs. Also MBRD deals with the activities in relation to coastal zone management, co-management, ecosystem approach to fisheries, and biodiversity conservation.
The aim of MBRD is accomplished through (a) carrying out multidisciplinary and integrated field, laboratory and experimental, basic and applied research; (b) monitoring and scientific assessments and predictions of the status of finfish and shellfish stocks in Sri Lankan waters; (c) giving advice for the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources in Sri Lankan waters; (d) undertaking specific pilot studies, providing consultancy services on new coastal/marine developments and designing management plans on specific issues for national bodies and (e) disseminating information, knowledge and recommendations on major achievements through publications and a variety of organized events.
The strength of MBRD is their staff including sixteen Scientists, two Development Officers, seven Research Assistants and nine Field Research Assistants who cover the field data collection in major fishing ports in Sri Lanka. The staff of the division is interactive with the fishing community throughout the Island and also supports the private sector by attending to requests made by them. The division provides facilities and guidance to university students in undertaking industrial training and final year research projects and to school children to carry out their research projects. In addition, the division conducts a number of lectures and awareness programmes especially for the Sri Lanka Coast Guards, Sri Lanka Navy and for the fishing community.
Also, the division is equipped with a biological laboratory, a biotechnology unit, a coral reef unit and a marine museum. The Biotechnology unit of MBRD consists of a biotechnology laboratory, which carries out molecular studies on marine/ brackish water species. The laboratory is capable of identifying any marine organism, animal or plant, to the species level by molecular methods. When morphological features are not clear enough for identification, molecular identification methods become very useful. The unit provides services to the private sector by identifying the species in canned fish and other processed marine products being imported to the country and of export products such as shark fins. The identification of the species of unidentifiable stranded marine mammals is also carried out by this lab. Jellyfish species and octopus species not previously recorded in Sri Lanka have been identified by this unit. In addition, stock identification studies for marine organisms have also been carried out.