Tuna caught in the Maldives is the source of the UK’s first certified sustainable tuna sandwich, UK media have reported.
The Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s uses the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified pole and line caught tuna from the Maldives in its new range of sandwiches.
The MSC ‘eco-label’ is said to provide consumers with the assurance that a product is traceable back to a certified and sustainable source. In November 2012, the Maldivian pole and line skipjack fishery received the certification for its low-impact technique where each wild fish is caught individually to reduce by catch.
“By choosing tuna from the Maldives tuna fishery, Sainsbury’s is supporting artisanal fishermen who have made an international difference to the way the Indian Ocean fishery is managed,” the Marine Steward Council’s Senior Country Manager Toby Middleton said.
He went on to describe the move by Sainsbury’s as a milestone for sustainable seafood.
The Maldives’ skipjack tuna fishery is the first Indian Ocean tuna fishery to receive the MSC certification. At the time, Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture Hussain Rasheed Hassan said export prices for Maldivian tuna would increase with the certification.
“There is a much better opportunity to sell abroad now, and despite our tuna already selling at a premium rate, I believe this certification will mean it is very likely that the prices will increase further,” he said.
In November 2013, the European Union declined to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives following the country’s failure to comply with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.
The Maldives exports 40 percent of its US$100 million fishing industry to the EU, its single largest export partner by value.
Until January 2014 those exports were duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.
Maldives’ Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shafeeu said the government’s application for a year’s extension under the ‘GSP Plus’ program was declined as it had not ratified all 27 required international conventions.
He warned that the sudden imposing of a 14- 20 percent duty on fish imports would lose the Maldives its competitive advantage over the larger fishing fleets of nearby Sri Lanka and Thailand, and reduce profits to “a marginal value.”
The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) slammed the EU in March, claiming the organization was attempting to spread values that Maldivians do not accept.
“When they took this action against us, they did not consider that the Maldives is the country that does fishing the most environmentally friendly way,” MNCCI Vice President Ismail Asif said.
Fisheries is the country’s largest employer at 40 percent and second largest industry.