Winner, Seafood Champion Awards Advocacy Category
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Fishing is engrained in the national culture of the Maldives; an island nation, they recognize the importance of sustainable fisheries, which ensure livelihoods are guaranteed and the environment left unharmed. With responsible pole-and-line tuna fisheries representing one of the country’s greatest assets and employers, the Maldives has consistently presented themselves as an advocate for effective transboundary management.

Pole and line tuna fishers on a boatA tangible result of the Maldives’ efforts in promoting sustainable fisheries has been the MSC certification of skipjack and yellowfin pole-and-line fisheries. The skipjack fishery was the first Indian Ocean fishery to gain MSC certification, representing a significant milestone for sustainable fisheries and MSC.

The Maldives example inspired other countries, including Indonesia and Sri Lanka, to implement Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs) with the end-goal of MSC.
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Fishing is engrained in the national culture of the Maldives; an island nation, they recognise the importance of sustainable fisheries, that ensure livelihoods are guaranteed and the environment left unharmed. With responsible pole-and-line tuna fisheries representing one of the country’s greatest assets and employers, the Maldives has consistently presented themselves as an advocate for effective transboundary management, influencing both discourse and policy that benefits the countries that too rely on their tuna fisheries.

The Maldives advocacy is an exemplar of collaboration advocating for sustainable fisheries at national and international levels; parties working together for change (including at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)), are led by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, the Marine Research Centre and industry representatives from the Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association (MSPEA).

A tangible result of the Maldives’ efforts in promoting sustainable fisheries has been the MSC certification of skipjack and yellowfin pole-and-line fisheries. The skipjack fishery was the first Indian Ocean fishery to gain MSC certification, representing a significant milestone for sustainable fisheries and MSC.

These certifications inspired other countries, including Indonesia and Sri Lanka, to implement Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs) with the end-goal of MSC. At the 4th International Coastal Tuna Business Forum (ICTBF) in Indonesia, Dr. Mohamed Shainee, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture of Maldives, invited Indonesia to partner with them in their efforts at the IOTC, and to engage in knowledge sharing to help Indonesia’s pole-and-line and handline fisheries attain MSC certification. Shortly after this invitation, Indonesia announced their pole-and-line and handline fisheries would be entered into the MSC certification process by the end of the year.

The Maldives joined the IOTC in 2011. From the delegation’s establishment within the IOTC, their commitment to advocating for independent science and the sustainability was clear. By February 2011 they encouraged like-minded coastal states to form a group to engage in the IOTC process, during the first Technical Committee on Allocation Criteria Meeting. In the same year, the first ever model-based Indian Ocean skipjack stock assessment was carried out, supported by the Maldives. At the IOTC level they have also successfully led campaigns for use of the Precautionary Principle, Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE), harvest control rules (HCR) and reference points (RP) – all important stock management tools – which were all adopted by the RFMO.

The Maldives has repeatedly worked to strengthen international policy through their involvement in IOTC. RFMOs are notoriously complex to navigate and influence; through the work of the Maldives we have seen how one small nation has punched above its weight to create real progress and benefits for the whole IOTC region, and can act as a beacon for other RFMO delegates to aspire to. Their advocacy and encouragement of other nations to buy-in to MSC, and thus act transparently, scientifically and responsibly, has resulted in action by other countries, most notably Indonesia. Tuna are wild and wonderful beasts, ranging across our vast oceans, they need the passionate and collaborative advocacy of states like the Maldives – a deserved Seafood Champion.

What local and/or international partners does the Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture work with?

Countries and representatives within the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, other international NGOs.

How well does the Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture and its work demonstrate the qualities of the category?

As stated before, their advocacy for sustainable fisheries particularly at the IOTC level has inspired a number of other countries to develop their own Fishery Improvement Projects (with MSC-end goals), and resulted in significant changes within the IOTC itself that hold benefits for all the countries in the region.

In what ways has the Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?

The Maldives’ advocacy has resulted in a growth in the number of MSC certified products in their own country and, hopefully, in others, meaning a greater proportion of fishers getting the wages they deserve for their fairly caught products. Their changes at the IOTC has mitigated potential overfishing within those fisheries, due to the uptake of management strategies.

In what way could the Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture’s story inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?

We believe that the story of a small island nation standing up and pushing for better management is inspiring – it shows that you can be a small fish but still have a very big impact! We would hope that their recognition would also further inspire other countries to develop their own FIPs and further engage in sustainability.

How would the Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture’s work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?

Their actions at the IOTC level, particularly in ensuring uptake of a number of management tools, could be easily replicated in other RFMOs by other nations.

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“We totally believe in the long term sustainability of the oceans. Maldives has a strong position in the Indian Ocean, so we are using that to advocate and to try and implement sustainability.”—Mohamed Shainee, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Maldives

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