Data loading...

Maldives Pole-and-Line Skipjack Likely MSC This Year Maldives, August 13, 12

The pole-and-line skipjack fishery in the Maldives could be certified as MSC sustainable in September, given the recent positive news from the certification body Intertek Moody.

In its latest report, issued in July, the fishery attained a score of 80 or more against each of the MSC principles: target species (80.6), ecosystem (81.7) and management system (81.1). The high scores mean this particular fishery meets the criteria as set out by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label. Already, the assessment has been peer-reviewed and there have been no recommendations.

The fishery is the most selective of those targeting skipjack tuna in the Indian Ocean, as the fishermen stand less than a meter above the water and are able to identify their catch. Some by-catch of juvenile yellowfin tuna does occur when pole-and-line fishing takes place at FADs (fish-aggregating devices), but it is unlikely to be harmful to the eco-system, according to the report. Between 2002 and 2008, small yellowfin tuna accounted for an average of 10.6% of the pole-and-line skipjack fishery’s total catch. Since the FAD fishery accounts for 60% of pole-and-line activity, the report estimates that in the FAD fishery, the amount of mostly baby yellowfin tuna caught incidentally was 17%.

Fishing on free schools, however, has hardly any by-catch. Interactions with endangered, threatened or protected species, such as sharks and turtles, are also very low in this fishery, and considered to be within sustainable limits.

According to the report, the main concern in terms of retained species is the use of bait fish, primarily silver sprat and anchovies, which are found in the open waters of the atoll lagoons prior to fishing trips. These species are generally considered to be difficult to overexploit because they are large in population and quick to reproduce. The total catch of baitfish used in the Maldivian pole-and-line skipjack fishery is about 8,000 MT, estimates the report, and there are presently no signs that the bait catch is exceeding the maximum sustainable yield for these species.

Stakeholders have until September 3rd to comment on the report, which means the fishery could be approved as meeting the MSC standard as early as mid-September. Given the relative simplicity of the coastal pole-and-line operation for boats and its landing control and the limited geographic area (compared to high seas tuna operations with purse seiners over huge surfaces), it will then be easy to certify the fishery’s Chain of Custody. The MSC Chain of Custody is a traceability tool that allows the final product to be tracked back through the supply chain to its original source and sustainable catching method.

Global pole-and-line fisheries produce about 400,000 tons, which is 10% of the global tuna catch, each year. The Maldives produces 100,000 tons of pole-and-line tuna annually, according to a 2011 Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) report, however volumes tend to vary heavily per each year.