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Fishermen Want Foreign Tuna Longliners Out Of Maldivian Waters

Foreign fishing vessels using longline fishing methods are exploiting Maldivian waters, according to Ibrahim Umar, president of the fishermen’s union.

His comments were made at a meeting with President Mohamed Nasheed and other members of the union this afternoon, during which the president said addressing the needs of fishermen was essential to sustaining democracy.

Speaking to Minivan News after the meeting, Umar said foreign fishing vessels were crossing the permitted 75-mile radius boundary and fishing as close as 35 miles around the Maldives.

“Even last week a foreign vessel was found and local fishermen got angry and tried to attack the boat.”

He added longline fishing was harmful to the populations of both Skipjack tuna and Yellow Fin tuna, a fact verified by a study carried out by the Marine Research Centre last year. “We want to ban long-line fishing,” he said.

Longline fishing involves use of a main line with baited hooks at intervals. One disadvantage is that longline fishing is prone to incidental bycatch.

Most fishermen in the Maldives use pole-and-line fishing, which is more environmentally friendly as it attracts fish by throwing live or dead bait into the water. Lines are then used to hook the fish, which are then pulled on board.

Nasheed said the government would reassess the licenses issued to foreign fishing vessels by the former government.

On trade prices, another of the topics of discussion at last week’s meeting, Umar said some fish exporters controlled prices unfairly.

In response, the president said he would set up a commission to ensure fair prices and help fishermen sell their catch at good prices.

Another of the points raised, was the inadequacy of the harbor at Male’, which did not have “enough space,” said Umar.

The president said he would build a harbor in Hulhumale’ to ease the congestion.

“This is a very good idea,” said Umar. “And he said he will put a ferry from Male’ to Hulhumale’, which is very good news.”

In addition to a harbor at Hulhumale’, ice, oil and water facilities will be made available at Hulhuman, he said.

Nasheed appointed Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, special envoy of the president, to supervise the concerns of the fishermen’s union.