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Rrecent calls to boycott yellowfin tuna caught from the Indian Ocean from major retailers is of great concern to the Maldives

Media Statement from Government of Maldives on the status of Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock (video)

Click on the flag for more information about Maldives MALDIVES
Thursday, October 29, 2020, 05:00 (GMT + 9)

Maldives  has  traditionally  been  a  fishing  nation  that  has  heavily  relied  on  the  fisheries  sector  for employment,  foreign  exchange,  and  food  security. Tuna  fisheries,  in particular is engrained  in  the culture, history and the very fabric of Maldivian society. The pole and line and handline tuna fisheries of  the  Maldives  are  iconic  fisheries that have  maintained  their  traditions and are  as environmentally friendly as they were at inception.

Thus, the status of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock and the recent calls to boycott yellowfin tuna caught from the Indian Ocean from major retailers is of great concern to the Maldives. As a responsible fishing nation, the Maldives has always advocated for and stood by the principles of sustainable fishing. This is clearly evident from the continuous work done by the Maldives to promote and maintain clean, green,  sustainable  tuna fisheries  at  local  and  regional  levels.  The  pole  and  line  tuna fishery of  the Maldives was the first ever Indian Ocean tuna fishery to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and our tuna fisheries have been acknowledged by a number of civil society organizations as exemplary fisheries. Our efforts to ensure the use of sound, modern day fisheries management tools at the regional level has  also been widely acknowledged within the industry. The proposals  adopted by the  Indian  Ocean  Tuna  Commission  (IOTC), led  by the Maldives,  on  the  implementation  of  the precautionary  approach  (adopted  as  Resolution  12/01),  on  target  and  limit  reference  points  and  a decision framework (adopted as Resolution 15/10) and on harvest control rules for skipjack tuna in the IOTC area of competence (adopted as Resolution 16/02) are key instruments established at the regional level through concerted efforts of the Maldives, despite the serious pushback from various stakeholders, and area clear indication of our commitment for sustainable tuna fisheries.

Photo: courtesy of IPNLF

Following the assessment of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock by the Scientific Committee of the IOTC in 2015 as overfished and subject to overfishing, the Maldives played a key role in formulating the initial version of the Resolution On an Interim Plan for Rebuilding the Indian Ocean Yellowfin Tuna Stock in the IOTC Area of Competencewhich was adopted in 2016. Thus far,the Maldives is one of the few countries  to have successfully implemented the Resolution. The Maldives has also  gone beyond the requirements  of the Resolution to limit overall catchfrom the fleet (including the segment of the fleet  exempted  from  the  reductions)  despite  the  importance  oftuna  fishery  to  the  economy  of  the country.

Ensis Fisheries, the largest tuna processor and exporter in the Maldives, has earned certification for sustainable seafood production by Friend of the Sea.(Sept.2019)

The process of establishing change in a complex forum such as the IOTC that operates at a multilateral level is most challenging. It is a time consuming and costly exercise that requires collective effort from all those concerned including the Maldives. The recent calls for a complete boycott on the sourcing of yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean, across the board in a non-differentiated manner with no regard to the efforts made by the countries  that have abided by the rules, is unfair and unwarranted. Such a boycott will have a major impact on the economy of the Maldives and the standard of living of more than 15% of the work force that make a living from our already sustainable and responsible fisheries sector. It is also of great concern to the Maldives that none of the civil society organizations that have been at the forefront regarding the calls for the boycott have reached out to the Maldives or the G16-group of like-minded Indian Ocean coastal states, in spite of our previous work to address the issue of yellowfin tuna stock.

At the same time, it is important for member countries of the IOTC to address the issue squarely and comprehensively. Considering the  serious  consequences  that  the  Maldives  and  various  other  Indian Ocean coastal states would faceif the current status quo is maintained, the Maldives and the industry led Maldives  Seafood  Processors  and  Exporters  Association  (MSPEA) haveagreed  to  take  the following additional steps to rebuild the stock;

  1. To enter into a Fisheries Improvement Program (FIP) by December 2020, with primary focus on improving the status of the yellowfin tuna stocks through advocacy and establishing sound management  of  the stock  at  IOTC  through the adoption  of management procedures  for yellowfin tuna.
  2. Initiate a pre-assessment process for MSC certification of the handline yellowfin tuna fishery of the Maldives, with primary focus on fulfilling the requirements of Principle 1 of the MSC standard.
  3. To  advocate  to  fast  track  the  adoption of  a draft  proposal  on  a  Management  Procedure  for yellowfin  tuna  (Maldives  is  already  a  co-proponent  of  the  draft  proposal  put  forward  by Australia) at the IOTC.
  4. To work with key fishing nations to develop and revise the current resolution on yellowfin tuna rebuilding  plan  to  ensure  that  yellowfin  tuna  stock  is revived to  sustainable  levels  in  a reasonable time frame.
  5. To advocate for an early annual session of the IOTC in the first quarter of 2021 to urgently address the issue of the yellowfin tuna stock status.

To secure healthy and productive tuna stock, it is crucial that the members of the IOTC seek holistic solutions to  the  issueat  hand. The Maldives  believes  that  the  current  practice  of  establishing  ad-hoc stock rebuilding measures is a risky path that should be avoided at all costs. The one stop solution to address thisissue is the establishment and enforcement of a management procedure and an equitable allocation scheme for the important tuna species that are fishedin the Indian Ocean.



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