No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan
The state-owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company’s (MIFCO) hand line fleet has received certification from the NGO Friends of the Sea, a leading international certification project for products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
The certification “authorises the tuna processor and exporter to carry the eco-label for yellowfin tuna from its certified vessels operating in the Western Indian Ocean,” Undercurrent News reported on Friday (October 3).
“Friend of the Sea audit requirements are very strict so we are proud to have obtained the certification,” MIFCO CEO Adhly Ismail was quoted as saying.
“We will continue to rely on Friend of the Sea to increase the number of certified vessels.”
Last week, sustainable fisheries consultants MacAlister Elliott & Partners trained and appointed a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) auditor in the Maldives.
The auditor, Seema Ali, will specialise in MSC assessment programmes, awarding sustainable fisheries certification to local companies in a move aimed to support employment in the Maldives.
The Maldives’ skipjack tuna fisheries industry received the MSC certification in 2012 for its low-impact pole-and-line technique where each wild fish is caught individually to reduce by-catch.
MSC Chain of Custody (CoC) surveillance audits of the Maldives skipjack tuna industry were conducted recently by Kat Collinson of MacAlister Elliott.
CoC standards for seafood traceability ensures the MSC eco-label is only displayed on seafood from sustainable sources, explained MacAlister Elliott.
The Maldivian fishing industry has declined in recent years, falling behind tourism and construction as the country’s third-largest industry.
While approximately 185,000 tonnes of fish were caught in 2006, the number had dropped to about 70,000 tonnes in 2011.
According to the latest monthly economic review from the Maldives Monetary Authority, fish purchases in August 2014 rose compared to the previous month and stood at 2,457.2 metric tonnes.
“However, a 48% decline was recorded compared to the corresponding period of 2013,” the central bank explained.
“In August 2014, both the volume and earnings from fish export fell compared to the corresponding month of 2013. As such, the volume of fish exports fell by 56%, while the earnings on fish exports declined by 48% during this period. The decline in the volume and earnings of fi sh exports was contributed mainly by the fall in export of frozen skipjack tuna.”
During the past five years, the value of the nation’s fisheries industry declined from MVR489 million (US$31.7 million) to MVR321 million (US$20.8 million) with a corresponding fall of 3.3 percent of the economy to 1.1 percent in 2012.
UK Supermarket chain Sainsbury announced earlier this year that it had introduced the country’s first certified sustainable tuna sandwich using the MSC eco-label.
“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 in May.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs recently started awarding halal certification to local fisheries companies in order to open up Islamic markets for export.
The move followed notification from the European Union that extension of the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives would be rejected due to he 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.
Maldives’ Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shafeeu said the government’s application for a year’s extension under the ‘GSP Plus’ programme 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.”
Until January 2014, fish exports were duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.