Sea turtle killing threatening Maldives’ dolphin-safe tuna certification

The Maldives is at risk of losing its dolphin safe tuna certification, while fishing vessels will be banned from delivering tuna for export if they participate in sea turtle killing.

A recent report by Minivan News found that the practice of slaughtering sea turtles is widespread throughout the Maldives due to lack of enforcement and poor awareness, and prevailing attitudes that the practice is acceptable.

A marine biologist and former civil servant with knowledge of the matter told Minivan News that the killing of endangered sea turtles was a nationwide problem.

“I know for a fact there are still specific island communities that harvest and consume green turtle meat. For example, in Laamu Atoll there are good nesting sites. Sea turtle meat is sold for a high price because it is marketed as a substitute for beef,” he said.

The marine biologist stated that the vessel in a photo published by Minivan News showing a large number of slaughtered sea turtles was “very obviously a diving dhoni”.

This, he said, raised the possibility that Maldivians were supplying resorts and/or safari boats with sea turtle meat for the consumption of guests.

The large number of slaughtered turtles on the boat also indicated that they were taken from a special nesting beach with a high nesting intensity.

“If it is nesting season there are many female turtles in the water and on the beach, and they can be easily caught,” the marine biologist stated.

Meanwhile, a safari boat operator who contacted Minivan News forwarded a photo showing half a dozen dead sea turtles, including one being ridden by a small Maldivian child. The source informed Minivan News that the photo was taken during a picnic last year on Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll, inside the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Dolphin safe certification threatened

The international non-governmental organisation (NGO) that provides the Maldives with its ‘dolphin safe’ tuna certification, the Earth Island Institute (EII), has expressed alarm over the reports of mass turtle slaughter in the Maldives.

“No dhoni (boat) that fishes tuna for export can be allowed to be involved in sea turtle kills. Any tuna dhoni that also kills sea turtles will automatically be banned from delivering tuna to any Maldives processor for tuna export,” Earth Island Institute Associate Director Mark Berman told Minivan News.

He explained the EII’s dolphin safe policy requires that “no tuna company will deal in sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, or their products. All efforts to minimise bycatch of these species is mandatory”.

“Each company in the Maldives, including those owned by the government, are signatories to the policy, therefore the government must do its best to stop this slaughter,” Berman stated.

Maldivian tuna is a “premium” product for the European and US markets because it is pole and line caught (no nets are allowed), there is no bycatch, and because it is dolphin safe and sustainable.

Berman emphasised that the EII will work with the Maldivian government and tuna industry to help stop the practice of turtle killing.

“I am very concerned and surprised this sea turtle [slaughter] problem has grown.

“The EII is not at all blaming the tuna industry or the government for this issue. We want to help solve it,” said Berman. “Earth Island has been a partner of the Maldivian tuna industry, friend of the government, and has campaigned for sustainable dolphin safe tuna exports for over 20 years.”

“However, other NGOs will see this issue and then attach it to any products exported [from the Maldives]. Then consumers in the US or Europe may tie the two together,” he warned.

Berman said the Fisheries Ministry need to alert fishing boat owners, while the EII would inform tuna companies.

“The government should do everything possible to educate the fishing folks that this is a serious problem both for fisheries and tourism. Also, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) could weigh in on the situation,” said Berman.

However the marine biologist told Minivan News that EII was not genuinely concerned with dolphin-friendly advocacy, and instead “have their own political agenda which is very business related and selfish”.

“Some countries are much worse than the Maldives but EII still gives them dolphin-safe certification,” he said.

EII has been working with the Maldivian government as well as fishing and processing companies since 1992. The Maldives was the second nation to sign onto EII’s dolphin safe policy.

“No direct linkages with turtle capture and the fishing industry”: Fisheries Ministry

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ahmed Shafeeu told Minivan News the Ministry had launched an investigation based on the recent report of mass sea turtle slaughter.

“It is very unlikely it is a tuna fishing boat. There are no direct linkages with turtle capture and the fishing industry,” Shafeeu stated. “Based on the photo it appears to be a normal ferry boat, which looks like it may once upon a time have been used as a dive or safari boat.”

“Just because a group of people have done something [illegal], the entire fishing industry can’t be blamed for breaking the law and committing a crime,” he added.

Shafeeu said the Fisheries Ministry is working the the Maldives’ Marine Research Center (MRC) to stop sea turtle slaughter.

“The MRC Director General Dr Shiham Adam is engaging directly with island councils to investigate.

“Also, Shiham and I are discussing how to fill the legal gaps, such as banning collection of sea turtle eggs. The current regulations are vague and do not apply nationwide – collecting eggs is prohibited only on specific islands,” said Shafeeu.

The Fisheries Ministry is also coordinating with the Environment Ministry to “determine how to start an [awareness] campaign”.

Monitoring fishing vessels directly was very difficult, but fishing boats did require registration and licensing in order to sell tuna.

Given that monitoring is such a challenge, the government needs Maldivian citizens to report any unlawful actions, Shafeeu said.

“We expect that when sea turtle killing occurs, someone will report it to us or directly to the police so it can be investigated,” he said.

“Even with the councils, they just keep a blind eye, so these things continue. People need to know we are serious and won’t just let go of this issue, it is our responsibility to take action,” he declared.

The marine biologist meanwhile explained that environmental law in the Maldives provides an umbrella framework, but only on paper.

“There has been a total ban on killing and catching sea turtles since 2006. However, as environmental crime is not appreciated in the Maldives, enforcement needs to be strengthened,” he emphasised.


28 thoughts on “Sea turtle killing threatening Maldives’ dolphin-safe tuna certification”

  1. Can somebody (preferrably from MDP) please start another Avaz campaign against Maldives? Of course this doesn't have to relate to current status or truth or any bs like that. This is politics. Cut throat politics at that.

    Btw can somebody please ask Minivan editors if the picture on the story has anything to do with Maldives?

  2. When your values differ this can happen. When you believe you're better than all other living creatures and that this world needs no preservation because you're going to better life later on, this can happen. Most Maldivians are very fatalistic and couldn't care less about the future, leaving everything in the hands of their god - even global warming. Most are tribal fanatics with mobile phones who are yet to realise what human rights are. So why would they care about endangered animals on the red list?

  3. I'm a gay muslim Maldivian and I think it is just appalling to see what our gay muslim brothers are doing to these poor turtles. Maybe if more of us would come out of the closet less of this would happen in 100% muslim country.

  4. human being-
    The picture shows a Maldivian child laying on a dead turtle surrounded by other dead turtles in the Maldives.The story is about Maldivians illegally killing turtles. Therefore, the picture and story go together. If you don't like the law, change it. There's nothing political about this story. Just FACTUAL reporting about an illegal practice going on in your beautiful paradise.

  5. How about letting go of the 100% certification status first. This is a more of a threat than a cohesive one!

  6. @human being (?) Thats then hiw it goes. Flogging protested ? Thats MDP. Mafia judiciary exposed ? Must be MDP. And thus everything about human rghts, environmental issues, democracy, freedom, stand up for autistic people ? It's just MDP which is playing political games. It's all simply not true and, most probably, haram and of course anti-Islam too.
    And so everything is excused.

  7. Ok. here is whats wrong with the picture for those who did not notice.

    1. People occasionally kill turtles, that's for sure. But they dare not display turtles on beach like as in the picture. Not in Maldives definitely.

    2. The way that whaler was beached is not typical. Maldivians take care of their boats and its unlikely they would beach a dinghy like that.

    3. When handling fish, Maldivians generally do it cleanly. They do not carry fish on their backs like they do in Africa. So its unlikely they will leave babies over dead turtles shell. If the turtle is alive, it can very easily crush the little ones fingers between its shell and head.

    4. finally, the way the pictures is cropped, how the corners are cut looks like a bad job of photo editing.

  8. Demand Waitrose and Tesco take Maldive Tuna OFF their shelves until the islanders grow up and take responsibilitys seriously. They cannot abuse the environment, that environment doesnt belong to them, it belongs to all of us HUMAN BEINGS. Its our world. Where AVAAZ?

  9. @human being

    wake up from your imagination, whether this picture is tempered or not, killing of turtles and shark is common and will continue.

    You know why? because of narrow minds, and illiterate idiots who are no different than the pedophiles who f...their daughters, go for prayers and feel no shame.

    And those who sell the meat, eggs and shark products are first degree criminals who care less of nature, the future or impact to the environment.

    Another example of empty brains! look at PPM supporters, especially gayooms. After thirty years of tyranny, poverty, denial of education, health and basic necessities, still they bow down to the dictator. What do you say to such brains???

    If you have nothing to write, dont!

  10. That photo was not doctored, nor was it taken in the Maldives. It was taken in the Philippines.

    Minivan News has clarified with the source of the image that the photo was taken on Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll, inside the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. -Minivan News team

  11. Fisheries is the livelihood of 60 percent of Maldivains. They are not in PPM. Most island fisherman are intact in MDP.

    Guess who wd by hurt by this kind of mad gossip about Maldives... Some one ought to investigate these media crimes again poor Maldives islanders.

    Some times you become like your enemy and this is what Minivan has now become.

  12. Ask yourself this question first:

    (1) What would drive the mass slaughter of turtles?

    The obvious answer is a ready market to buy that meat. Maldivians are not usually known for the mass consumption of turtle meat. They may occasionally catch the odd turtle and eat it, but not on the scale reported.

    So, that leads to the buyers of this meat. Who are they? Are they tourist resorts? Or someone else? Cut that end of the chain, and you have a much better chance of stopping the problem.

    Yes, islanders and ignorant (ask Yameen and his campaign boys), but if no one is going to buy their illicit goods, they won't engage in such activities. They are wise enough to realise that.

  13. Good to see the outside world taking note of this.

    @livelihood - How dare the media report on the illegal slaughter of endangered sea turtles! How dare they bring light to this crime! Seriously, wake up.

    And as for fishermen being MDP or PPM, why does it matter? The issue here is that certain individuals are slaughtering sea turtles. Their political affiliation is of no importance.

  14. First hit Tourism. Then hit Fisheries.

    Maldivians need to get some sense into their heads and see what Nasheed cult (not MDP) and those who support him (such as Minivan News) are doing to the Maldives.

    You guys are worse than cancer.

  15. The picture is fake the story is false again.. i have never seen islanders killing turtles and throwing em on the beach like that.. have any of u MALDIVIANS seen it? be honest!!

    do u think common locals would tolerate this?

    and like minivan claims do u believe we MALDIVIANS use turtle meat as a substitute for beef? LOL!! all lies

    Hey minivan foreign editors, just for ur info. most Maldivians don't like beef.. they prefer fish and chicken.

  16. @common sense
    Please tell me what about tuna? Why is it ok to kill tuna and not ok to kill turtle?
    I know turtles are endangerd but is that the only reason? Why is that the fisherman who caught turtle is a "killer" but the same fisherman is just a fisherman for "fishing" (not killing, ok? 🙂 ) tuna?

  17. Ann on Thu, 4th Apr 2013 3:24 AM ...Dude i think u have never been on an uninhabited island... Dumbo they dont come to nest on habited islands.. On un-inhabited islands there are plenty of bones of killed sea turtles .. even in Kaafu atoll.

  18. If you are destroying nature,Nature will destroy you!Maldives dramatically turn to the primitive era and carelessness about environment in progress/
    So will be Boomerang effect one day/ and in that time no need to blame any supernatural force/ Today it is the root for tommorow/

  19. The responses of some would be almost funny if this wasn't so sad.

    Some of you... (Ann / Joke / Livlihood / Randeep / Human being)....

    are doing a great job of making people think you are actually retarded.

    Having read your responses, all I see is this

    You are deaf, dumb and blind. On top of that, you are all incredibly f*****g stupid.

    This is neither about Minivan or politics.

  20. @Yo, these are people who'd probably support the death penalty for apostasy and homosexual sex and stoning for adultery. Why would they care about endangered species when they treat their own kind like this?

  21. Dear Editor,

    I must clarify that I did not make any
    threat to the tuna industry dolphin safe certification. Earth Island WILL NOT at all change this certificate for any Maldives tuna. Your title of the article did not correctly describe the problem at all.
    We agreed to comment only because we want to asssit in solving the problem, NOT inflame this further.
    Maldives Tuna companies and govt. are
    long time partners over 20 years with
    Earth Island Institute. We will work with the industry and the Fisheries Ministry to utilize public awareness and education and find alternatives to stop the demand for the sea turtle products. The Tourism Ministry can assist by having the resorts educate their customers in the same manner that this endangered species protected under CITES. Earth Island will also
    work with ECOCARE on a plan of action .

    Mark Berman

  22. Spanish and French boats do purse seine fishery outside not so far away from teh Maldives in the Indian Ocean. This type of fishery kills so many other type of species. I am not a supporter of killing turtles selfishly. However I have one question. What does turtles have to do dolphins? (look at the title of the article).

  23. Whoever put this child on a turtle should be investigated for endangering a child.

  24. Outrageous. I will stop buying Maldivian Tuna and I will tell all my social media followers and link to this stories photos.

  25. Dear Minivan News,
    Having looked at the picture that you have depicted in this article and carefully read through it, I am convinced that this is another attempt by yourselves to create a false alarm and create a situation that you believe will draw negative international attention towards Maldives.
    You have very successfully done this in the case of the little girl too, she is now not only victimized by her step father, she has fallen victim to media abuses too.
    The picture is a picture of a beach in the south of Sri Lanka, That boat is proof of it.
    The fact that you have cut the corners is a clear manifestation that the id of the picture was taken out to look like real.
    Please don't engage in such vindictive and unconventional methods. It's only your reputation that will be hurt.
    Best wishes
    Mohamed Ali

    Thank you for your concern. Minivan News takes the legitimacy of the images we use very seriously. In this instance we have contacted the source of the image who has informed us it was taken during a picnic last year on Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll, inside the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The photo was a portrait taken at a sharp angle and was rotated to fit our display format. -Minivan News team


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