Maldives’ tradition of pole and line fishing enables greater sustainability in the often-criticised tuna market
Compared to common industrial fishing practices that indiscriminately capture marine life, Maldives’ ancient technique is a breath of fresh air in the global seafood industry. Even commercial fisheries like the publicly owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) keep it simple with the pole and line method, which uses just handheld poles without reels, fishing lines and hooks to catch tuna one by one.
According to the United Nations, “Maldives sets an example of sustainable seafood value chains” for the world to follow.
While the pole and line method has been in use for over a thousand years, what has changed radically for the Maldivian fishing industry is access to global markets and the ability to process fish for export.
Today, MIFCO’s products can be found across the world in internationally recognised stores such as Marks & Spencer in the UK, and the company is working to get its products onto shelves in the UAE. “We want to access the Gulf market, and we are ready to export,” says Ismail Fauzee, CEO of MIFCO, who exhibited his company’s product for the first time at the Gulfood trade show in Dubai earlier this year.
Besides its responsible treatment of the ocean ecosystem, the Maldivian fishing industry supports a unique way of life. “The fishing industry has a highly positive impact on communities and remains very much a family-oriented activity,” Fauzee explains.
Fish is Maldives’ main export, seeing significant increases as global seafood consumption has doubled in the past 50 years. More capital, however, is required to modernise the industry.
“There are opportunities for UAE investors in fishing vessels, ice plants, Refrigerated Sea Water Systems and recreational opportunities,” says Zaha Waheed, Maldives’ minister of fisheries, marine resources and agriculture.