Mohamed Rauf is a father of three from Kanditheemu in Shaviyani Atoll. Like most fishermen in his island, he took up shark fishing as a means to provide for his family.
For three years Rauf’s family depended on selling sharks to local buyers until the government of the Maldives imposed a nationwide shark fishing ban, bringing a halt to his income from shark fishing.
In March 2010, the government banned all types of shark fishing within its territorial waters, which covers about 90,000 square kilometres, technically making it the largest shark sanctuary in the world at the time. A trade ban on all shark products was imposed in July 2011.
Rauf is just one of the estimated 200 shark fishermen whose livelihood was affected following the ban.
Although the government in March 2010 said it would provide the fishermen with financial support and retraining, Rauf had to wait two years for any action on the matter. Last week, his hopes were finally raised.
‘Alternative livelihoods for former shark fishermen’ is a training workshop funded by UK retailer Marks & Spencer, focusing on farming and aquaculture training. The workshop was held last week for former shark fishermen and their families from the islands of Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll and Kan’ditheemu and Goidhoo in Shaviyani Atoll.
Seamarc Pvt Ltd, an environmental consultancy in the Maldives, coordinated the workshop in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture and New England Seafood.
Environmental consultant at Seamarc, Marie Saleem, said the workshop was conducted by experts from the Hanimaadhoo Agriculture Centre and Marine Research Centre, and was a great success.
“The workshop served as an inspiration to people – they have being asking for this since 2010. Now they realise they can really do things like hydroponics and agriculture on the islands,” Saleem said.
The farming course focused on home gardening and hydroponic techniques. Participants learned to cultivate different crops including chilli, watermelon and papaya. Participants also acquired knowledge on common pest and disease control related to these crops.
The aquaculture course focused on different species of aquaculture including food fish, clown fish, grouper, pearl, seaweed and sea cucumber cultivation. A lecture on the commercial aspects of mariculture was also given by the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Corporation (MIFCO).
The Hanimaadhoo Agriculture Centre will conduct a further, more in-depth agricultural training course later this year. The three-month course and another two-week long training on aquaculture planned for the year are expected to equip the participants with more hands-on experience.
“It was more of an introductory workshop this time. We really hope participants will continue with the other workshops that are coming up,” Saleem added.
Rauf, who has now achieved a certificate from the workshop, agreed that further workshops, especially in aquaculture, would be helpful.
“The workshop was great. We learned a lot of new things. But I am only confident with the farming techniques so far. Another workshop in aquaculture will be very useful,” he said.