Fishing activities are legally regulated by the Fisheries Act of the Maldives that was enacted for ensuring the “sustainable management of fisheries and marine resources and their ecosystems in the maritime zones of the Maldives, providing for the control of fishing by all persons within the maritime zones of the Maldives, as well as fishing by Maldivians outside the maritime zones of the Maldives, and the principles and bases for the development and management of the fisheries and aquaculture industry.” The Act allows certain types of fisheries in the maritime zones, such as skipjack tuna pole and line fishery, large yellowfin tuna handline fishery, longline fishery, billfish fishery, trolling, grouper fishery, bait fishery, marine aquarium fishery, diamondback squid fishery, reef fishery, bigeye scad lagoon fishery, harvesting of sea cucumber, lobster, and similar types of fisheries. (Section 17(a))
Section 18 of the Act provides that the Ministry should prepare and review fishery management plans for the planning and management of each of the fisheries, which shall include:
The total removals of such fishery at the time;
The types of fish living in the ecosystem, connected or dependent on the target fish of such fishery;
The objectives to be achieved from such fishery management Plan;
The measures to be adopted to manage and develop such fishery;
The licensing mechanism for such fishery;
Catch limits imposed on vessels in such fishery (if any); and
The duration as well as the principles for review and amendment of such management plan.
Purse seine fishing, gillnet fishing, trawl net fishing, fishing using a net with the exception of bait fishing and fishing for personal consumption, and fishing using an explosive, poison, or such other chemical are the types of fishing in the maritime zones that are prohibited under the Act. (Section 27)
The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture of the Maldives is the leading agency that controls fisheries management and development. Its obligations include:
Formulating and enforcing laws, regulations, and policies required for sustainable development of fisheries and marine resources, including those relating to Maldivian faros reefs and lagoons;
Formulating and implementing policies and strategies required for sustainable development of fisheries, agriculture, and marine resources of the nation;
Protecting and conserving the marine and terrestrial biodiversity of the nation;
Collection, processing, and publication of fisheries and marine resources data and statistics;
Protection of endangered species;
Development and installation of fish aggregating devices (FADs);
Formulation and implementation of development projects which enhance the socio-economic standard of the people;
Resources monitoring and conduct of multi-disciplinary research;
Collecting, cataloging, and maintaining samples of the marine and terrestrial biodiversity of the nation; and
Formulating and implementing regulations on scientific exploration and research into the Maldivian waters, seas, seabed, subsoil, and soil.
Unfortunately, despite the existence of the Fisheries Act, there has been exploitation and overfishing activities documented, like in many other countries, where this type of industry plays an important role in the country’s economy. For example, black corals have been abundant on Maldivian reefs once, but because of so many factors that are mostly human intervention (fishing, climate change) and other aspects, many aquatic species have been depleted for the last 20 years. Other examples include the exploitation of the giant clam in the early 1990s, the exploitation of turtles have been exploited for local trade and consumption, etc. The long list of human activities, both direct and direct, affect the marine environment, which has an effect on the entire marine ecosystem. There is an urgent need for each person to take action for preventing many aquatic species of animals from disappearing. Removing animal products from one’s plate is the first, the important, and the simplest way to cut the demand for seafood. Other easy ways include reducing plastic waste, clean up after oneself in public places, beaches, recycle, and spread the word about the threats that are posed to all animals, including humans.