Over 100 stakeholders release joint statement against legalizing shark fishery in Maldives

Shark fins kept to dry on the fishing vessel caught by police on March 22, 2021 | Photo: Police

Malé, Maldives – 106 international and local stakeholders, including resorts and NGOs, have released a statement urging the authorities to not lift the shark fishery ban.

This statement comes in relation to a statement made by the Minister of Fisheries, Marine Research and Agriculture Zaha Waheed stated that they were discussing legalizing shark fishing and lifting the Maldives’ 11-year-old shark fishery ban on 23 March 2021.

She said this in response to questions from Members of the Parliament at the Economic Affairs Committee of the Maldives Parliament. The Minister stated that the Fisheries Ministry sees “no reason not to” lift the ban to reap benefits from fishing this economic resource.

The stakeholders however disagree with the statement stating that as Maldives has declared a climate emergency, it is inconsistent for the country to undermine its position as a safe haven and hope-spot for sharks which play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Maldives’ marine environment. 

We [the undersigned Concerned Stakeholders] urge the State Authorities not to lift the shark fishing and trade bans that have been in place for over a decade. 

The stakeholders also called upon the government to uphold the rule of law to enforce the legal protections for sharks, and for timely, transparent investigations for the following cases:

  1. The attempted illegal export of 429 kg of shark fins seized by the Maldives Customs Service on 3 January 2021 at Velana International Airport;
  2. The vessel that was apprehended by Maldives Police Service carrying a large quantity of sharks and shark products in South Ari Atoll on 23 March 2021; and 
  3. The illegal drum fishing line discovered by a tourist at the popular dive site, Fish Head in North Ari Atoll with several hooked sharks on 24 March 2021. 

The statement urged the authorities to give consideration to the fragility of the balance of nature in the Maldives today, and reminded that as a nation of 99% water and 1% land, the health of the ocean is vital for its survival.

They added that at a time where the country is grappling multiple crises including but not limited to; the Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis; the climate crisis and ecological crises are threat multipliers. Safeguarding the sharks is essential for Maldivians to be able to survive and thrive.