Short tempers over long lining

One of the most influential and pioneering shark and marine conservation organisations, Bite Back, has said a UK boycott of long line tuna from the Maldives is a real possibility unless the Maldivian government disallows long line fishing in Maldivian waters.

Bite Back, which works to promote sustainable fishing and halt the trade and consumption of vulnerable fish species to protect ocean habitats, has expressed alarm at the proposed long line fishing in Maldives.

Graham Buckingham, campaign director of Bite Back, says that seafood is a hot ecological topic, with consumers demanding that fish are caught sustainably and with the minimum of by-catch.

“As such, a UK boycott on long line-caught tuna from the Maldives is a real possibility that, of course, could be avoided by the government outlawing longline fishing in Maldivian waters in the first place,” he said.

Marks & Spencer, a global retail giant, and one of the major buyers of Maldivian tuna, announced last year it would no longer buy tuna that is not caught by pole and line.

Talking to the press last year, an M&S spokeswoman said: “As all of our food is own-brand, it means there will be absolutely no products in our stores that use tuna which isn’t pole or line caught.”

Minivan News has learnt that M&S buyers visited the Maldives recently and held talks with local environmentalists to ensure that all tuna in the Maldives were caught using pole and line.

The dilemma

The steady decline in fish catch has lead the Maldivian government in proposing long line as an alternative method of fishing alongside the more traditional and environmentally friendly pole and line.

President Mohamed Nasheed in his opening address to the Majlis appealed to fishermen to find new methods of fishing saying “Those massive fishing vessels that we built yesterday, that are now anchored in the lagoons as they are not suitable for pole and line fishing, are causing us immense loss.”

Nasheed went on to say that it’s not feasible to burn fuel and engage in pole and line fishing in big vessels, and experts had advised him it would be more profitable to use those vessels for group long-line fishing.

The Ministry of Fisheries is now poised to provide financial and technical support to fishermen to adopt this new method. The president urged the fishermen “to take to the seas again.”

The president also announced that licenses for foreign boats that had been catching fish using long line and net in the Maldives would be cancelled in April and Maldivian boats would take their place.

Ibrahim Manik, chairman of the fishermen’s union says “around 80 per cent of fishermen are against this new method, but the dire situation means there will be those who will adopt this.”

He says at least Maldivian fishermen will be more careful about the ecological impact.

“Even now our fishermen will release any sharks they catch by mistake, so if our people do long lining they will be more careful.”

Interestingly enough in 2008 the same union sent a letter urging the then fisheries minister to stop boats using long line methods in Maldives waters on ecological grounds.

“Even now we are saying don’t give permission for long lining, but on the other hand the fact that fishermen can’t make ends meet anymore means that there will be those who will do this for the money.

He admits that longline has negative effects on dolphin and sharks and says readily that ‘the reputation we had built over the years will be destroyed.”

Organisations like Green Peace which had urged last year for people to buy Maldivian fish would no longer be doing that, says Ibrahim.

“Money is the big factor here. A fishing boat used to earn around 10,000 Rf to 20,000 Rf per trip before, and now we have exporters also who are encouraging this.”

But even private exporters like Big Fish are worried. The company’s director Ali Riza says “long line is completely contradictory to how we fish now; Maldives Seafood Processor and Exporters Association (MSPEA) are even now debating the pros and cons of it.”

According to Ali, UK supermarkets are supposed to have certified sustainable products on their shelf in the year 2010, and this complicates everything.

“Europe is our biggest market right now and we are even now planning to participate and promote our product as one caught by sustainable fisheries in the biggest fish export fair in Belgium this year.

However he says the fact that ‘a lot of companies are now on the verge of bankruptcy’, which is also cause for concern.

No concessions

Ali says right now one can only hypothize about how European consumers will react but says he finds all the talk a bit hypocritical also.

“it’s not us that overfished the waters, but now that it’s done, we are being told not to do what western countries had been doing.”

And like Ibrahim who evoked the idea of foreign boats doing long lining, Ali says “we obviously can’t seal off our waters – fish are migratory. If we don’t do it others will overfish around us, so we might as well be the ones doing it.”

He expresses hope that there will be minimal negative impact, as they are not targeting sharks and other species, and says there will not be a “significant amount” of by-catch.

Activists like Graham say long lining causes the unintentional death of 80,000 turtles a year along with countless sharks, dolphins, sailfish and seabirds worldwide, calling it one of the most indiscriminate methods of fishing.

Major exporters like MIFCO who last year exported 115,580 cases of canned tuna, 21,008 tons of frozen tuna and 312 tons of fresh yellow fin seem to think that the shift in fishing methods would not cause a major problem.

“We will also apply for long line license when they start giving it,” says Ali Faiz, Managing director of MIFCO. He says as the customers are different for long line and canned tuna, it would not have much of an impact.

“With long lining we mostly export raw fish.”

He also scoffs at the environmental concerns, saying a lot of the time environmentalists are controlled by big businesses. “All these days’ foreign boats were doing it, and having an advantage over us. Now it will be more difficult for boats to come here and steal from us.”

He is confident that there will always be buyers for Maldivian fish.

Ali says those who support the environment friendly method of fishing in Maldives, do not give any incentive for it to be continued. “We have an entire country that is fishing with pole and line, but do we get any special concessions, any benefits because we do it?”


25 thoughts on “Short tempers over long lining”

  1. this is crazy, UK is a bully. Have they themselves stopped unsustainable ways for fishing? It is ok for bigger countries to empty the ocean and when the developing nations do it, it is not allowed. Hell with UK and other countries who try to bully smaller countries. this is similar to climate change. bigger countries have done all the ill effect and now when it is the developing countries turn, you cant do it. The way is to go ahead with all the precautions to reduce by catch. WE NEED TO SURVIVE AND FILL OUR STOMACHS. otherwise ask UK to compensate with enough money so we can stay home for their sakes.

  2. The Maldives government has gone barmy. I am a person who voted Anni to get rid of President Gayoom. His recent policies on withdrawing liquor licence, plans to build more flats in already overcrowded capital Male’ and destroying our fishing industry by allowing long-line fishing says that he is not fit to govern the Maldives.

    Even when I voted I knew that he is a good activist. But he and his cabinet lacks the vision to build the Maldives from the foundation Gayoom laid down.

    I call upon environment NGO’s and all European customers to get ready to boycott Maldives tuna if the Maldives introduces long-line fishing and environment unfriendly fishing methods.

    President Nasheed and his cabinet is turning out to be just similar hypocrites that we got rid of with Gayoom.

    It seems to me that Maldives is using enrviroment/global warming etc... to get foreign aid. Whereas the authorities policies’ are against the environment.

    Whereas the authority’s policies’ are against the environment and individual Maldivians are not doing their bit.

    This is evident from number of second hand motorcycles which roam around in Male' and plastic bags floating in Maldives seas and beaches.

    We Maldivians should clean up our act before asking others to cut carbon emission and crying foul.

    PS: I wonder why the author has not asked any opinion of Islamic Ministry, they may suggest to introduce "Islamic Fishing".

  3. When did UK start making deciding for the Maldives.

    Bugger off..

  4. long lining will wreck the brand image of Maldivian tuna - not to mention Maldives' tourism. Have we done any studies on this to look at the economic and environmental impact? or just rushing ahead in the hope it will be a quick fix?

    UK and them have raped their oceans of every last living thing. do we want to copy the fishing practices of them, that has killed their fishing industry dead?

  5. How did Britain's learned that there is a method called pole and line? Guys, know what you are talking. We taught it to you. When it comes to fishing it is best that they understand that we know it better then what they do, and leave us to do our job.

    This administration will only loose its public support when UK, a close partner of the government, try to intervene the income source of the average people in the country. It will also fuel hate rage against them.

  6. Islamic fishing is the only solution to this. As you know, Islamic fishing is becoming very famous in Europe and Japan. Islamic fishing is very simple, pray before you star fishing, jump into the sea for fish. Fish will come into your hand. You have to kill fish with a sword. Young and female fish are prohibited.

  7. President Nasheed has turn out to be one of the number one enemies of global environment. It has been one disaster after another since President Nasheed came to power. The most recent on his list of things to destroy is our fisheries industry and along with it our environment and thereby our tourism industry. I voted for Nasheed but deeply, deeply, regret it now.

  8. you can easily find someone willing to blackmail Maldives from the UK. Graham Buckingham is no different. I am sure he can make a good buck out of our misery. Good Day to you sir, Mr Buckingham!

  9. Europeans rake the off the oceans with miles long bottom trawlers, raking off and catching everything and anything.
    Hypocrites and Protectionists should not bother us at all. The global demand for fish is growing and is expected to grow at twice that of supply. Prices are increasing and supply will never meet the demand. If some people in UK boycott us so be it. While they grow rich scooping up oceans, we are supposed to preserve. very funny. What nonsense. If these guys had their way we would still be in the stone ages.

  10. It is really funny that the fanatics of Anni still wants to disregard the fact that his government does not have any competence to manage this small beautiful nation, specially the economy. Instead these morons still want to assert that his policies are right oblivious of the fact that fair trade and environmental standards are a predominant condition considered by the europeans consumers.

    Let me also highlight a failed promise of the president which would serve him as a nemesis. He repeatedly vowed in his campaign that he will quit restricting export of Maldivian fish to a few number of exporters in order to allow more competition in the market. However, he had extend this permit last month to some of the exporters for 15 years. The remark made by the Managing director of MIFCO, Ali Faiz, is the most feeble justification that someone can give and needless to say that he is a novice to his position and an ignorant hypocrite who comes out to street protest of MDP.

    And lastly, the fishing industry of Maldives would have been a competitive and a profitable industry if the government regulate effective policies such as introduction of eco-fisheries, R&D etc.

  11. Editor, I dont know your editorial rules but I dont think anyone would have seen @Zainab comment in a responsible news site.

    You have simply proven that this news sites main agenda is to create hate in Islam and promote Islamophobia.

  12. i support long line for the maldivian fishermen. since we live in indian ocean surrounding neighbours all are doing the same. why should nasheed cabinet have to quiet.

  13. Its a pitiful when the likes of "adm" above are politicizing this affair and turning this into another example of MDP "activists with no competence at running a country" (the irony of how this country was brought to its knees by the DRP clowns who had the so-called experience is another affair and how this mess has to be cleaned up is lost on him/her).

    However, the crux of the matter is that while some of our tuna do go to European markets - the majority of it goes to Japan and Thailand. Furthermore, given that the Western countries have thrown us out of the list of Least Developed Countries and we will be hit with a 20% tax to export to Tuna to Europe - our market in Europe (and UK) is going to die anyway. The markets of Japan and Thailand do not put these restrictive environmental standards on us.

    Furthermore, unless and until long-lining is banned around the world and especially in Europe - I agree that we have come to a situation where long-lining must be at least considered for our market.

    In light of the environmental impact, there are ways to limit this either to certain regions or to certain groups or even to a certain time period (e.g. for one year) but lifting the existing outright ban should be at least considered.

  14. BAN it NOW in Support of (Bite back)
    I guess many of the local divers and dive schools safari boats and tourists would join Bite Back.
    Ban all shark exports from Maldives

  15. why are the resorts and divers so quiet on this issue? it will kill all the sharks and turtles, and therefore your business.

  16. I call on the Environment Minister and Tourism Minister to put their foot down or resign. It is a shame for them to sit on Nasheed' cabinet while he destroys our environment, tourism industry and economy.

  17. I am amused that MIFCO doesn't see the incentive in this, they surely don't know the ecology of Maldives. Incentive doesn't always appear as dollar bills. Long-lining is extremely harmful not only to marine animals such as sharks and turtles but also sea bird. period! And also whoever suggested that fisherman can just release the bycatch is just blind. As if a shark is just gonna hang on a hook waiting for help.

    Also, I see a lot of sentiment here that this is the UK bullying us. First of all this an example of global civil society in action and not that of the government of UK. Also if UK wants sustainable fish in the supermarkets by 2010 than it not a matter of them boycotting Maldives. It's a dilemma even European fisherman would have to deal with. Similar to the recent EU policy of labelling products that come from the illegal settlements in Israel. EU is just moving towards a more ethical market standard.

    I understand that the Government proposed this out of desperation. So here is my solution: Agriculture. Why don't we work on developing Agriculture in Maldives? There is a lot of potential and hardly any focus is on it...

    To minivan news: You guys should have a word limit on comments. I have noticed some people write academic papers with bibliography in the name of COMMENTS! If people need their OPINION be heard, they can submit letters or articles.

    (Now my comment is too long!)

  18. Wow... just looking at the comments. I truly fear for the future of our oceans.

    So I guess people are for this now just because the UK doesn't like it? What kind of twisted nationalism is that?

    Because foreign countries emptied our oceans; we should be the one giving it the final blow instead of trying to save what's left?

    I have no doubt in my mind that the Maldives will come to regret this.

    To quote a student from Hong Kong when we were talking about where we were from respectively:

    " I wish I could live there. People from Maldives, they love the sea, they don't do the long line or use nets right, that is why maybe you have so many fish, and nice reef, you're very lucky!".

    Well, what can I say.

    Pillage, pillage, burn, and take until the earth is bare.

    Then you can look at the bigger countries with pride and say "Hey, we helped kill Mother Earth too!Where's our share of the reward?".

  19. @outofdabox

    Although you find it difficult to digest the truth, the fact is that Anni's government has many loop holes and anyone who is sensible would know this. The Maldivians voted for a change, specially the youths of the Maldives. A change that would prosper the future of this nation. Also a change that would create many young businessmens and save from the slavery of the very few businessmen nurtured by the former government.

    I perceived that Maldivians are very talented and intelligent people and have the ability to do ethical and sustainable business practice. It is our responsibility to pass our natural heritage to the future generation. We need to eliminate the corrupt culture that our older generation have and you find it difficult to accept this fact when I say it with a contempt. Anni is tarnishing all his accomplishment for the shake of his activists who are not competent to the position. Beleive it or not this is how things are happening and that does not mean I am a zealot of DRP.

  20. This is playing out much like the Canadian east coast cod fishery played out. As the stocks were over-fished year after year despite fisheries scientist warnings, industry simultaneously denied it was happening and blamed foreign fishermen, fishermen built larger boats to fish more intensively farther from shore, politicians anxious to stay in office one more year lacked the cojones to stop it, and in the late 1980's one of the world's greatest fisheries all but vanished. Congratulations on following this excellent example.

  21. Dear Editors of Minivan News,

    Why do you keep the same news articles on your front page for so long?

    This article was posted 2 days ago and the rest of the articles on the front page are even older.

    I wish Minivan News publishes more articles and more frequently.

    Kind regards,


  22. fisheries ministry must publish the environmental and business impact assessment (we presume) they have carried out, otherwise this policy is crazy. We all know the good Dr in that ministry is very suspect; Maldives #1 environmental terrorist

  23. True long lining has its by catches and some of them are at all of no use to human consumption.

    It is also true that the idling fleet of fishing boats especially in the south need some kind of motivation and a kick start to get moving!

    But long lining for tuna will have its disadvantages and is a subject for criticism.

    However, if carefully crafted change to the existing hand and line method for fishing tuna which is seen not to have the problem of by catch compared to long lining (which is about 5% of total catch), it can benefit both the fisher and the environment and relieve the pressure off those who truly worry about this!

  24. Hey guys this is nothing new, government introducing! Why criticize MDP and Anni? At least they have cancelled giving the licenses to the numerous foreign vessels that have been started long time back. And surely whatever has happened been endorsed by DRP / PA during their reign.

    I am amazed by the British companies' reaction towards the amount of quantity Maldives export comparing Sri Lanka and many other countries, who do long line and even catch by nets. There are even factories English people own or co-own, for e.g Le Lien in Sri Lanka.

    So, please be considerate. Now the whole fishery industry is suffering because no one gets fish. We should be asking ourselves what do we compromise? Eco Label? The share we should get from fish? Like MIFCO MD Faiz said, there are people who can buy the little fish we catch, other than UK.

    The immediate economic solution for the folks in the islands is that to get income from fishery. So what can we do? While our fishermen comes and spoke about the numerous foreign boats fishing just behind our back yard and may be landing in Sri Lanka and exporting majority to UK!


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