President Nasheed informs South Korean industries on investment in the Maldives

As part of his visit to South Korea President Mohamed Nasheed met with executives of the country’s business sector, fisheries industry and the media.

In his meeting with representative from the business sector held at the Intercontinetal Hotel in Seoul on Friday, the president informed them of the business and investment opportunities in the Maldives.

President Nasheed spoke of the potential investment opportunities in green energy and housing projects in the Maldives.

He noted South Korea was a growing market for the Maldivian tourism industry and an important partner in the fisheries sector.

The president also met with the president of Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Hwan-eik Cho at the KOTRA Centre to discuss investment in the Maldives, especially in the fisheries, energy and housing sectors.

According to the President’s Office, a number of South Korean companies expressed interest in investing in the Maldives.

He then met with the Director General of Distant Water Fisheries Bureau of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Korea, Lee Cheol Woo, and the Chariman of Korean Overseas Fisheries Association, Kyung-Nam Chang.

Present at the meeting were also representatives from Sajo Industries and Dongwon Industries, two South Korean companies working in the fisheries and business secotr.

President Nasheed spoke of the challenges faced by the Maldivian fishing industry, and said the government wanted to expand the overseas market for fish products so foreign companies could buy fish directly from Maldivian fishermen.

After his meetings, the president met with South Korean press and spoke mostly on the environmental challenges faced by the Maldives and his commitment to bring the issues of climate change to the international stage.

President Nasheed concluded his visit to South Korea on Friday.


President Nasheed meets his South Korean counterpart

President Mohamed Nasheed met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak last Thursday as part of his visit to Seoul for the B4E Summit.

President Nasheed and President Lee discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and spoke of ways to strengthen mutual cooperation.

President Nasheed said South Korea and the Maldives could work together especially in the areas of fisheries and the environment.

He also spoke of business and investment opportunities in the Maldives.

President Lee commended the Maldivian president for his efforts to bring the issue of climate change to a global platform and for his role in bringing democracy to the Maldives.


President Nasheed meets with Consul of Seychelles

President Mohamed Nasheed met yesterday with Honorary Consul to the Maldives in Seychelles, Lambert Bonne.

The meeting focused on strengthening bilateral relations between the countries, especially in the areas of tourism and fisheries.

President Nasheed said forging a stronger link between small island states would give a louder voice to those states in the international arena.

Bonne assured his full cooperation towards strengthening ties between the two nations and briefed President Nasheed on the economic situation in Seychelles.


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’.


Ban on blue fin tuna could put pressure on Maldivian waters

Minister for State Economic Development Adhil Saleem has told Miadhu that the EU’s decision to back the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on blue fin tuna would increase pressure on Maldivian waters.

Saleem warned Coastguards needed to be careful in monitoring illegal foreign fishing vessels that might enter Maldivian waters to catch the blue fin tuna.

He said some fish which are common in the Maldives could face extinction if outer seas were not patrolled carefully.

Bunyaameen, Chairman of the Maldives Sea Product Processors Association, told Miadhu that the decrease in blue fin tuna would increase the value of Maldivian yellow fin tuna.

CITES has proposed a temporary ban on international sale of Atlantic blue fin tuna due to over-fishing and the low numbers of this species. The USA has also backed the ban, but Japan, where most blue fin tuna is eaten according to the BBC, is opposing the ban.

The motion needs a two-thirds majority to pass.


President Nasheed meets with financial sector experts in Germany

President Mohamed Nasheed met with officials from the development banking sector in Germany yesterday.

President Nasheed discussed investment and assistance for the Maldives at a meeting with representatives from KfW Entwicklungsbank (German Development Bank), German Investment and Development Company (DEG), and Senior Expert Services (SES).

They focused on the areas of investment in renewable energy, tourism and the fisheries industry.

The president sought assistance from the SES in restructuring state-owned enterprises.