Maldives to ban reef shark fishing by March 2010

Tuesday, 6 October 2009 16:08

When Maldives Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture stood up to speak at the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission steering committee meeting in Mombasa, he talked extensively about the shark and how the tiny archipelago is changing its fortunes from the sea creature.

But to the surprise of many, especially the Kenyan delegation, the minister, Dr Hussein Rasheed Hassan, explained that his country was in the process of banning fishing of sharks from its waters, making it the first nation in the region to make such a move.

The majority of states in the region do not attach such value to the sharks.

But in Maldives, where the number of sharks has plummeted in recent years due to their killing by fishermen targeting them for their lucrative fins, the predator are a key feature of the tourism sector.

In 1998, a 10-year moratorium banning shark fishing was imposed to cover the seven atolls where tourism had been established on the assumption that many tourists visited the Maldives to see sharks.

However, with the spread of tourism to almost all islands in the country, the ministry decided to expand the ban to encompass all reef sharks fishing across the Maldives within a 12 nautical mile radius (22km).

Dr Hassan said the Maldives government has now given a one year notice of a total ban on reef shark fishing by March 2010.

“We have realised that it is more economically viable to leave the shark and other sea creatures unharmed because the country currently earns about $7 million annually from the diving industry,” Hassan said.

The reason for the ban, he said, was to increase the stocks and add value to diving tourism and attract more tourists who visit the islands for their beautiful underground coral gardens.

“The marine ecosystem is very fragile and that is why we have to regulate activities that coupled with the treats of climate change could adversely affect the major sources of income for the country,” he said.

Dr Hassan said that, today, the country receives tourists twice its 350, 000 population every year.

In Maldives, sharks have a particularly valuable role in the tourism industry, which generates some 30 per cent of the country’s GDP.

According to surveys, about 30 per cent of tourists visit the Maldives for its underwater marine with life, viewing sharks and manta rays as their top priorities.


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