Maldives pole-and-line yellowfin tuna
Location & History
The Maldives pole-and-line yellowfin fishery has been operating for centuries and has been the lifeline of the Maldivian economy since before the boom of the tourism industry in the mid 1970s. The fishery primarily targets skipjack tuna, however, often some individual yellowfin species will become part of the skipjack school, and are fishes as secondary catch. The fishery not only provides a large proportion of the country’s income from the tuna trade and export, but also provides one of the only sources of protein for the Maldivian population, also contributing to a stable livelihood. The Maldivian pole-and-line fishery is located in the Arabian Sea within the Indian Ocean.
How is the Tuna Caught?
All the tuna from this fishery is caught using traditional pole-and-line methods, using one hook on a line attached to a bamboo pole, catching one fish at a time. Most fishing vessels employ a crew of about 15-20 fishers, and they catch small, live fish to use as bait for the tuna close to shore. Once the live bait is caught, vessels travel out to the open water searching for schools of tuna using binoculars and relying on sightings of birds and/or dolphins. Flocks of birds hovering above the surface of the ocean are good indicators of feeding schools of fish, and fishers have used these sightings to locate tuna for hundreds of years. Once located, the fishers use the live bait fish to keep the tuna swimming around the boat in a frenzy, which helps when landing the fish on their hooks. The boats also sprays water off the back of the vessel onto the surface of the ocean, to mimic the action of fish being chased by predators, which also helps to attract the tuna. Fishers lower their lines into the water and wait for a tuna to get hooked on the end, before pulling the fish up onto the boat.
This fishery catches around 4 million KG of tuna every year - that’s about 25 million cans of tuna! Non-target species (also known as bycatch) are animals that the fishery doesn’t want to catch, such as dolphins, turtles or sharks. The use of a single hook and line per fisher means that there is very little bycatch, and because fishing takes place at the surface of the ocean, there is virtually no negative impact on different marine habitats. Once the tuna are on board, they are placed on ice immediately and taken into shore where they are either exported frozen, or processed in one of the factories.
A unique and popular aspect of the fishery is that all the boats are owned by Maldivian families that support fishing communities, so the proceeds from the catch sales supports the livelihood of the outer island communities of the Maldives.
Meet the Fishers
Profession: Captain of Fv ‘Kanduroalhi’
Location: Ga. Gemanafushi
One of the renowned skippers in the Maldives. The bird radar was successfully trialled under his skippership . A proud skipper who truly believes in sustainable one-by-one fishing.
- Annual Catch Volume (metric tonnes)
- Number of Vessels
- Local Employment
Traceability systems are used in food supply chains to track a product from production to consumption. They assist with ensuring that standards and regulations are met throughout the supply chain, which is very important for products that travel across the globe, such as tuna.
Good traceability reduces contamination, disease, and spoilage. In the case of seafood, it also helps to maintain sustainable fish stocks in the oceans so we can keep enjoying tuna for years to come.
Most importantly, traceability provides transparency through the supply chain, allowing all parties including the consumer access to information about the products they are buying.
Fisheries Information System (FIS)
The Fisheries Information System (FIS) was established in the Maldives to increase the traceability of their tuna products. Through the FIS, Maldivian fishing vessels are fully registered online and provided with licenses to fish in the area. The FIS sets catch quotas per vessel and records catch rate and fishing effort data, as well as providing catch certificates to permit the sale of tuna products. Fishers are also required to record tuna purchases on the FIS to highlight how much of their catch was sold and the price it was sold for.Find out more
What is an industry association?
Industry associations are responsible for enforcing industry specific standards and regulations to protect employees and companies within that industry. They have a range of responsibilities such as providing industry specific information to businesses and useful resources, engaging in education programs, and supporting businesses so that they can reach and maintain industry standards.
Another important role of an industry association is lobbying governing bodies to take action on issues that are affecting the industry in question.
What is a fishery association?
Fishery associations are generally not-for-profit organisations that represent fisheries in one area of the world. Fishery associations are important for small-scale and artisanal fisheries, to defend their rights in a competitive industry and lobby governments for their support of these fisheries.
These associations ensure fishers are protected as employees in this industry, and that fish stocks are being managed appropriately to ensure the fishers trade will continue and be prosperous. Some associations represent employees throughout the supply chain, from fishers, to processors, to distributors, protecting the workforce from the source to your plate.
Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association (MSPEA)
The Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association (MSPEA) represents a number of the major the Maldivian tuna processing companies, including MIFCO and others, and is the certificate holder for the Maldives pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishery Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. The group works to ensure that the MSC certificate can be upheld, providing the financial mechanisms to maintain the certificate in the longterm. It is also a firm champion of the one-by-one tuna fishing method.
Maldives Fishermen's Association
Maldives Fishermen's Association (MFA) was formed in April 1993 as a non-governmental organisation aimed at developing the Maldivian fishing industry by educating, providing incentives, facilitating market options, gathering and disseminating information about new technologies to the local fishers in Maldives. The association has close collaboration with international and regional fishery associations and intergovernmental bodies.
MFA works alongside fishers to encourage growth and develop a sustainable fishing industry in Maldives. It gives priority to preserve indigenous knowledge, create awareness and understanding about fishery by hosting workshops within the country. Such workshops are designed to educate, help acquire skills, facilitate alternative methods like aqua/marine culture and introduce advancements in fisheries for fishers. The association also participates in the government's projects and assists the policy makers by providing the on ground information from the local fishers through consultative mechanisms.
Dhivehi Masverin (Maldives Fishermen) was formed in February 2018 as a non-government organisation in the Maldives. The Associations aims to promote pole-and-line fishing together with all the related activities of fishing in the Maldives. The Association intends to create awareness in the community and encourage youths to be a part of the sustainable pole-and-line fishing industry. Dhivehi Masverin also works to update and educate fishermen on the latest technology being used in the fishing industry and provides pole-and-line fishing updates on a daily basis through the official facebook page; Dhivehi Masverin.
The Association adheres to all laws, regulations and best practices used in the pole-and-line fishing industry and assists all the government and non-government stakeholders in the fishing community.
Dhivehi Masverin is committed to promoting sustainable fishing methods to the fishing community and encourages fishermen to exercise environment friendly pole-and-line fishing in the Maldives.Find out more
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation
Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) are international bodies formed to manage fish stocks in an oceanic area. They include several countries with fisheries operating in that area, and some focus on particular species such as tunas. They are established through international agreements and treaties. RFMOs typically collect fishery statistics, assess fish stock conditions, monitor fishery activity and make fishery management decisions.
The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is the RFMO responsible for managing tuna and tuna-like species (including billfishes and some sharks) in the Indian Ocean. Their main objective is to manage fish stocks, by ensuring fisheries operate sustainably, so benefits from relevant fisheries in the region can be maintained into the future.
Stock Status Reports
Yellowfin Stock Status2021-03-25
The stock status of a fish species signifies whether a species is 'overexploited', 'fully exploited' or 'underexploited'. Different organisations use different parameters to assign these labels. For example, the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) deems any species to have less than 40% of it’s ‘unfished biomass’ to be overexploited.
The aim of assigning stock status to a species is to ensure that catches are kept at a level where future catches will not be affected, in other words, to maintain a healthy, viable population of fish.
In addition to biomass, spawning potential, catch trend and size-age composition may be used to determine stock status. These are important factors to consider as some species are more resilient than others and have different ecological features. For example, yellowfin tuna have a higher reproduction rate and are typically more resilient than other tuna species.Download Report
National Reports are formal documents from members of the Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (tRFMO) in question. Each country that falls within the tRFMO must report on the state of their national fisheries in relation to the requirements of that tRFMO. They are normally presented to the annual Scientific Committee meetings by a credentialed head of delegation - considered national scientists. The tRFMO normally prescribes what the report should entail and how it should be structured, which would also include progress on key resolutions on conservation and management measures, and brief the ongoing scientific research of interest to the tRFMO.Download Report