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MALDIVES TUNA AGREEMENT

MALDIVES TUNA AGREEMENT

Maldives tuna agreement. The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), the only non-profit association that is solely committed to promoting responsible one-by-one tuna fisheries and supply chains, has signed an important Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association (MSPEA).

This five-year agreement, ratified between the two parties in Malé, Republic of Maldives, establishes a dynamic, collaborative commitment to support the local tuna sector. The initiative aims to improve the livelihoods of communities connected to these fisheries, and ensure that the Maldives remains at the forefront of the global one-by-one tuna supply. The two organisations will also share office facilities in Malé.

One-by-one fisheries in the Maldives are people-centric, and comprise 100% locally-owned fishing operations engaged in traditional practices. For this reason, an important element of the IPNLF-MSPEA cooperation will be to continue to study, and ultimately quantify, the social and economic contributions of these fisheries.

These endeavours will further drive IPNLF’s social sustainability manifesto which states that investing in the one-by-one tuna supply chain must be done in tandem with delivering social benefits to those coastal communities involved in responsible pole-and-line, handline and troll fisheries.

Another priority for IPNLF, MSPEA, and their Maldives’ partners over the coming years is to further improve the traceability and transparency of one-by-one tuna harvests. This will be done with a variety of new technologies and tools which are either already available or will be implemented in the near future.

Martin Purves, Managing Director of IPNLF, says, “The Maldives is widely considered the home of pole-and-line tuna, and so the signing of this MOU is a very important step for all those connected locally and internationally to these fisheries. By working much closer together, IPNLF and MSPEA intend to further advance all the good work that has already been done. We want to continue to build a stronger and more commercially competitive Maldivian one-by-one tuna sector, thereby ensuring that it is better positioned to meet the future needs of the many dependent coastal communities, as well as the ever-growing demands of consumer markets.”

MSPEA is a registered charity that represents a number of the major Maldivian tuna processing companies. It is also the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification holder for the Maldives pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishery, providing the financial mechanisms to maintain the certificate in the long-term. This certification is currently in its second five-year cycle.

The two parties have agreed to focus on the maintenance of the MSC certification achieved by the Maldives’ tuna fisheries and any fishery improvement plans connected to this certification. This close relationship will also help facilitate continued compliance of the Maldives with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) requirements and help to promote the Maldivian tuna fishery globally.

It was also agreed that MSPEA will liaise with the Maldives Government and its institutions to obtain any permits or support required to implement the agreed activities in accordance with government rules and regulations.

Umar Jamaal, President of MSPEA, comments, “There is so much that the Maldives needs to do to promote and protect this unique fishery. Attending the recent IOTC Commission meeting in Hyderabad opened my eyes to a number of crucial  issues; most notably, key stocks are overexploited and the use of drifting Fish Aggregating Device (dFAD) on the high seas is not effectively regulated or monitored, leading to high juvenile tuna catches in the purse seine dFAD fishery. It was also obvious that the G16 Group of Indian Ocean Coastal States need to work together before it is too late. It is time the Maldives and other coastal states claim their rightful place in the Indian Ocean tuna fishery.”

By signing the MOU, IPNLF and MSPEA agree to the following:

  • Support activities that will ensure an improved understanding of the social and economic conditions of the fishery and fishing communities to help develop and formulate fishery development policies and management plans
  • Develop and improve fishery data collection, compilation and reporting systems to meet and exceed the standards required for IOTC reporting
  • Improve the monitoring of the livebait fishery data collection by educating the fishermen on best-practice livebait fishing methods and improving routine collection of livebait data
  • Facilitate bycatch and catch monitoring through an agreed observer programme and help improve the Regional Observer Programme of the IOTC
  • Facilitate the formulation and implementation of fishery improvement projects (FIPs)
  • Support the G16 Group of Like-Minded Coastal States of the Indian Ocean in improving their engagement with the IOTC

With 2022 being declared as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture helping to focus attention on the small-scale fishermen and women who comprise 90 percent of the world’s fisheries workforce, important work lies ahead for the MSPEA-IPNLP partnership to showcase the potential of the Maldives one-by-one tuna fisheries and point to the benefits which can be gained from strengthening the small-scale fishery sector. Businesses wanting to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can ensure that their procurement decisions drive positive change by providing access to markets and resources for small-scale fishers. Continued market support for the Maldives fisheries is vital to ensure that sustainable fishing practices are rewarded, healthy coastal ecosystems are maintained and the communities that depend on these resources are further strengthened.

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