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Minister Confident On MSC Certification Maldives Pole-and-line Despite Rumors Maldives, September 19, 12

There are no problems with the Maldivian pole-and-line skipjack fishery to stop it from becoming MSC certified, says Hussain Rasheed Hassan, the Maldivian Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture. He says he isn’t aware of the rumors that suggest otherwise.
The traditional fishery is currently in the final stages of review – stakeholders had until Sept. 3 to make comments on the latest report – and Hassan believes the assessment to gain the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label will be successful.
“I believe the Maldives deserves to be MSC certified. The fishery is quite sustainable and we have all the management in place so I do not see any reason why the Maldives should not get MSC certification.”

He says there has been criticism of pole-and-line fisheries in general, which he defended at the recent International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. The use of baitfish resources that these fisheries depend on has its fair share of critics too, but this is also not a problem for the Maldives, he says.

“In the Maldives, in my lifetime, we have increased the catches by fourfold despite fishermen often saying there is insufficient baitfish available.” He says the variability in catches is like any natural process – some seasons are better than others.

According to the July report by the certification body, Intertek Moody, the Maldivian pole-and-line skipjack fishery uses about 8,000 MT of baitfish and there are presently no signs that the bait catch is exceeding the maximum sustainable yield. Primary bait species are silver sprat and anchovies and both are considered to be difficult to overexploit because they are large in population and quick to reproduce.

Hassan says the skipjack tuna stock in the Indian Ocean is also healthy. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, the organization in charge of the region’s tuna, evaluated the resource last year for the first time and found the catches were substantially lower than the maximum sustainable level that can be harvested, which is estimated to be 564,000 tons.

In 2011, skipjack catches in the Indian Ocean were about 429,000 tons and 22% – about 94,000 tons – were caught using pole-and-line. Maldivian fishermen catch the majority of this – about 60,000 to 80,000 tons each year – and their fishery is expected to yield about 40,000 tons of certified sustainably caught skipjack tuna, if it gets the MSC stamp of approval.