Cabinet approves long line fishing for Maldivian vessels

The Cabinet has decided to open the opportunity for long line fishing of yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna for Maldivian vessels after discussing a paper submitted by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture during their meeting last Tuesday.

Cabinet claimed allowing long line fishing will improve the fisheries sector, which has worsened significantly since 2006.

Senior Research Officer at the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Hussein Sinan, said long line fishing is “far better for targeting yellowfin and bigeye tuna.”

Sinan said “there will be environmental impacts from any fishing method,” although there are “concerns for yellowfin stocks in the Indian Ocean.”

“There is a possibility the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission will introduce a quota system,” Sinan said, explaining that if they do implement a quota, the Maldives would have to regulate their catch more strictly.

He explained that the need to introduce long lining for yellowfin tuna was essential because it provides better income opportunities for fishermen.

“Look at the statistics. In 2005 the [Maldivian] fisheries industry caught 186,000 metric tonnes of fish. In 2008 it was 117,000 metric tonnes.”

Sinan added that long line fishing was “more sustainable” and it assured better quality of tuna for export.

“The pole-and-line process stresses the tuna, which causes them to produce lactic acid,” Sinan explained. “This makes it of lower quality.”

He said the Japanese market, one of the biggest fish consumers in the world, would only accept the highest quality tuna, and “for this reason long lining is better.”

“There are 22,000 fishermen in the Maldives,” Sinan said, “and the ministry wants more opportunities for them to catch fish. We need to protect their livelihoods.”

Sinan explained that larger vessels, those over 85 feet, “need to catch at least three metric tonnes a day, that is 3,000 kg of fish, otherwise their operation is working at a loss.”

He added that long line fishing vessels do not have to travel as far as pole and line vessels, lowering fuel costs.

Sinan said the government is planning a trial, which will decide whether or not long line fishing is beneficial for the Maldivian fisheries industry.

Environmental perspective

Minister for Housing, Transport and Environment, Mohamed Aslam, said long line fishing “is nothing new. It’s been going on for over ten years.”

He said “what’s happening now is the government has decided to terminate licenses for foreigners this April,” and only Maldivians on registered Maldivian vessels will be able to use long lining.

Allowing only Maldivians to use this method will make it “easier to regulate where they fish,” Aslam said, explaining that the vessels would be equipped with transponders and could be monitored and thus controlled.

He added that long line fishing would only be used to catch yellowfin and bigeye tuna, and traditional pole and line fishing would still be used for the country’s biggest tuna export, skipjack tuna.

Aslam said long lining for yellowfin tuna had been “sustainable so far” and “we only need to regulate it so stock doesn’t deplete.”

He noted that any banned by-catch, such as sharks, would “have to be thrown away. It will be wasted,” he said, adding that “every fishing method has potential of by-catch.”

Aslam thought the government’s initiative was “a good thing,” and noted that “long lining has never been prohibited for Maldivian fishermen. It has always been open,” but that most fishermen have not taken it up.

He noted that “in the current system, there are a lot of vessels that are losing money because there is not enough catch.”

Aslam said he hoped “the value of Maldivian fish will be raised” by international retailers such as Marks and Spencer in the UK, if it complies with sustainable methods.

“They buy fish from other fish-producing countries like Thailand, who don’t use pole and line fishing or dolphin friendly practices,” Aslam said.

Director of Environmental Protection and Research at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ibrahim Naeem, said “it is obvious that long line fishing will definitely catch some un-targeted fishes, like sharks and turtles.”

He said although “Indian Ocean tuna stock is still in good shape,” there were both good and bad implications to long lining.

He said the EPA considered by-catch to be the biggest environmental impact of long line fishing.

“The good side is yellowfin tuna is not fished well in the Maldives. There are a lot of tuna just hanging around in our deep seas,” Naeem said, noting that long line fishing would increase the catch.

Naeem said the government had made this decision because the fishing industry is very poor right now, “and fishermen are idle on islands right now, so they want to explore other avenues.”

He didn’t think the initiative would have any negative impacts on the fishing industry as a whole, but thought that “fishermen will not go for long lining if there is fish near the surface.”

Fishing industry’s perspective

President of the Fishermen’s Union Ibrahim Manik said “fishermen don’t want to do long line fishing, but they have to do it to survive.”

He said one of the reasons many fishermen were against long line fishing was because many dolphins and sharks are affected.

“Since the 2004 tsunami, many deep ocean currents have changed and many sharks get caught in the lines,” Manik said, adding that the shifting currents also meant fishing boats had to travel longer distances to find fish.

“Most boats are doing 2-3 trips a month. And they have to travel far.”

“Some fishermen are doing long line fishing because they are not catching enough fish,” Manik said, but noted that most fishermen want to continue using the traditional pole-and-line fishing.

Manik said about 70 percent of fishermen rely on skipjack tuna, and the remaining 30 percent on yellowfin tuna, but “fishermen are financially short. They cannot survive these days.”

Because of the financial situation of the fishing industry, Manik said fishermen are starting to look at catching reef fish and bigeye tuna.

He mentioned fishing vessels as another problem. “We have good vessels here in Maldives,” he said, “but many of them are not using the technology. Boats with new technology have the advantage.”

Manik said a change to long line fishing would even bring a problem with marketing. “Everything is labelled as pole and line-caught tuna, and now government is advertising long line fishing,” which will bring problems from export partners, many of whom only want to buy sustainably-caught tuna.

He also said financing was a major issue. “Fishermen are getting 70 percent leases from the bank [for their vessels], but they are not getting enough fish and not paying the bank back. There is no development bank and also a very high interest rate.”

Manik said the Fishermen’s Union had asked the government to extend the period to pay back the money to the bank to ten years, but their request was rejected.

“Our economy is down and living standards are going down day by day.”

“In Himandhoo side some dhonis are only catching three yellowfin tuna a day. Fishermen are just trying to do something to get money.”

He said although they understand the government is trying to do something beneficial for the fishing industry,“the government is spending so much on other things like sport, but they are not spending anything on fishermen.”

“We have to wait. We are waiting for the day the government will do something for fishermen.”

International market

Minivan News contacted Marks and Spencer (M&S) in the UK, which confirmed that Maldives is their main supplier of tuna.

A company spokesperson said M&S had “strict policies” on how the tuna it sells is caught, and would be looking into the issue.

A recent story published in the UK Telegraph newspaper on M&S’s tuna imports from the Maldives revealed how much emphasis the company places on pole-and-line fishing methods, which it considers to be more ‘eco-friendly’.


13 thoughts on “Cabinet approves long line fishing for Maldivian vessels”

  1. My question to Sinan is what about the pole and line fishery that our forefathers did for centuries?Just because you see money it doesn't mean that you slaughter the goose which lays the golden egg.Yes,from 2006 pole and line fishing had gone down.Its good that you mentioned the year,cause its the year when due to Yellow fin Tuna fishing the pole and line fishing started to go down.Ask any pole and line fishermen why they think pole and line fishing had gone down.
    Yes,its true that you are gonna terminate the foreign long line fleets.But what about the IOTC member countries are they not allowef to fish here in the Maldives?Plus what about the pelagic sharks.Their number had decreased dramatically and pelagic shark population have a great relation with Tuna fishery.This government is out to destroy everything,They sold our hospitals,schools,airports and now they are gonna sell the sea and destroy the fragile population of sharks.

  2. Pole and line fishing kills fish faster than on the long line, and the lactic acid is produced due to the fact that a long distance swimmer like the tuna stops swimming when caught in a long line and faces an agonizing death (how "halal" is such a fish by the way?).

    Long-line fish is known to be of lower quality than pole and line, but if experts in the Maldives say it's the other way round, I will have to acknowledge it.

    Pole and line fishing has more or less no bycatch, and how about long line? Every single turtle, shark or dolphin is one too much! There is no excuse! We cannot afford bycatch - our sustainable reputation is going down.

    Not a good decision - considering how much a live turtle, shark or dolphin is worth for our tourism industry!

    The dentist has become the root of all evil, someone should perform a canal root treatment on him!

  3. very bad idea. will be terrible for marine life. attitude seems to be, oh everyone else is wrecking their environment so let's wreck ours.

  4. Pole & Line is something which makes Maldivian Tuna better then other countries. When we tell foreigners and show them how we Maldivians catch fish, they are amazed and first thing they atleast tell me is.. "wow that means your fish is very good quality and price must be expensive also". To me this comment by nearly everyone I have talked to clearly shows that Pole & Line does not make the quality of the fish less in the eyes of foreigners. Maldivian fishermen are professionals in Pole & Line compared to many other countries and this is something they should be proud of and which the government should be proud of also.

    This method is dolphin friendly as well. So the price we sell can be higher compared to normal Tuna from other countries. We gave many people in Malaysia to taste the Tuna, they love it compared to other big brands in the market and they are really amazed of the excellent taste of it. Im thinking government might be trying to industrialize the fisheries sector in order to bring long line fishing companies from overseas? Im not sure, but just curious.

  5. everything is going kabooom these days ...nothing is a good news. I wonder whats our fate will be by 2013. will we regret the change we brought with so much hard work...

  6. tell me where longlining for tuna is considered unsustainable. tell me when longlining in the Maldives was banned. in fact longlining for sharks was banned, isn't it good for the environment.

    all indications are that we have a healthy yellowfin stock in the Maldives. due to climate change the skipjack catch is going 'down', so we need a method to go deeper. tell me any other fishing method that is more sustainable to catch deeper fish (would you like instead to purse seine, or trawl, i dont think so..).

    btw what is environment going to serve when there is no one there to enjoy. our livelihood is based on the ocean and fish that it provides. why do you have to bring politics into everything. instead we should make sure that all possible methods of reducing by-catch is enforced. please try to separate the canned tuna, 'caught by pole and line' and YF and BE caught by Longline. these are two totally different fisheries targeted for two separate products for two entirely different market.

    keep up the good work-'fisheries team', and disseminate more information with better facts. those politically motivated people will hopefully be enlightened.

  7. "The status of yellowfin tuna in Indian Ocean is very close to an overfished state, or already overfished, therefore SC recommends that the catch of yellowfin tuna does not exceed the average catch for the period 1998-2002 (i.e. 330,000 tonnes) when catches were stable, prior to the exceptional years of 2003-2006 when the stock might have been overexploited. Similarly, SC recommends that the fishing effort does not exceed the level exerted in 2007 when the catch of yellowfin tuna returned to the pre-2003 levels (IOTC 2008b)."

  8. Mr. MMM ,
    You cannot just simply say that pole and line fishing is going down due to climate change.Yeah i been experiencing loose-motion due to climate change!!give a break!!
    Check the IOTC website and see how critical the status of Yellow Fin and Big Eye population is in the world!If they go down than Skip Jack Fishery will go down.

  9. by seeing that news really I glad to congratulate the Maldivian Gvt. because if Maldivian fishermen depends only on bait fishing will increase the bait fishing pressure and reefs pressure also.
    In order to control the pressure and the future sustainable fisheries this is the right choice.

  10. by seeing that news really I glad to congratulate the Maldivian Gvt. because if Maldivian fishermen depends only on bait fishing will increase the bait fishing pressure and reefs pressure also.
    In order to control the pressure and the future sustainable fisheries introduction of long line fishing is the right choice.

  11. Why are we worried about overfishing, Americans and other developed countries are catching what what is available in the oceans. We cannot afford to lose the opportunity and the marine rich source.

  12. The reason the pole and line catch has gone because of the huge foreign tuna industry ships that skulk around in these waters, they are banned for 200 miles around the maldives but 1)is there even someone patroling to make sure they are staying out ? 2) even at 200miles away they have a huge impact on tuna stocks with their gigantic purse seine nets and FADS...If the fishermen are not catching enough it is short sighed to introduce a much more aggressive and unsustainable method like long lines, they might catch more for a short time, but you are ignoring a much greater problem of sliding fish stocks. and making the way for completely empty seas in the future ...Maldives! you are such an amazing example to the world with your pole and line methods...PLEASE focus on replenishing fish stocks by regulating the huge foreign fleets, get them AWAY and your fish will be able to recover...Taking up long lining is a one way road down to the destruction of your ecosystem...And to the rest of the world!! We darn well need to support their pole and line efforts much much more!


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