ރާއްޖޭގައި މިޔަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަން މަނާކޮށްފައިއޮތްއޮތުން ނިމުމަކަށް ގެނައުމާ ދެކޮޅަށް، ގުޅިގެންނެރޭ ނޫސް ބަޔާން
Joint Statement opposing the lifting of the shark ban in the Maldives
27 March 2021
Joint Statement opposing the lifting of the shark ban in the Maldives
On 23 March 2021, responding to questions from Members of the Parliament at the Economic Affairs Committee of the People’s Majlis, the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Research and Agriculture, stated that they were considering the option to lift the Maldives’ 11-year-old shark fishery ban. The Ministry stated that they see “no reason not to” lift the ban to reap benefits from fishing this economic resource.
With Maldives having declared a climate emergency, it is inconsistent for the country to undermine its position as a safe haven and hope-spot for sharks which play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Maldives’ marine environment.
Therefore, we the undersigned Concerned Stakeholders urge the State Authorities not to lift the shark fishing and trade bans that have been in place for over a decade.
The undersigned Concerned Stakeholders also call upon the State Authorities to uphold the rule of law to enforce the legal protections for sharks, to ensure accountability and to conduct timely and transparent investigations on the following cases:
- The attempted illegal export of 429 kg of shark fins seized by the Maldives Customs Service on 3 January 2021 at Velana International Airport;
- The vessel that was apprehended by Maldives Police Service carrying a large quantity of sharks and shark products in South Ari Atoll on 23 March 2021; and
- The illegal drum fishing line discovered by a tourist at the popular dive site, Fish Head in North Ari Atoll with several hooked sharks on 24 March 2021.
We urge State authorities to give serious consideration to the fragility of the balance of nature in the Maldives today. As a nation of 99% water and 1% land, the health of the ocean is vital for its survival. At a time where we are grappling multiple crises; the Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis; to name but a few, the climate crisis and ecological crises are threat multipliers. Safeguarding the sharks is essential for Maldivians to be able to survive and thrive.
ރާއްޖޭގައި މިޔަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަން މަނާކޮށްފައިއޮތްއޮތުން ނިމުމަކަށް ގެނައުމާ ދެކޮޅަށް،
ގުޅިގެންނެރޭ ނޫސް ބަޔާން
23 މާރޗް 2021 ވަނަ ދުވަހު ރައްޔިތުންގެ މަޖިލީހުގެ އިކޮނޮމިކްސް އެފެއަރސް ކޮމިޓީގައި ކުރެއްވި ސުވާލުތަކަށް ޖަވާބު ދެއްވަމުން މިނިސްޓްރީ އޮފް ފިޝަރީސް، މެރިން ރިސޯސަސް އެންޑް އެގްރިކަލްޗައިން ވަނީ ރާއްޖޭގައި މިހާތަނަށް 11 އަހަރުވެފައިވާ މިޔަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަން ކުރުން މަނާކޮށްފައި އޮތް އޮތުން އުވާލާ، މިޔަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަން ކުރުމަށް ހުއްދަ ދިނުމާ ގުޅޭ ގޮތުން މަޝްވަރާކުރެވެމުންދާކަން ހާމަކުރައްވާފައެވެ. މީގެ އިތުރުން، މިޔަރަކީ އިގްތިސާދީ ގޮތުން ފައިދާ ހޯދޭނެ ވަސީލަތެއް ކަމަށާއި އޭގެ ބޭނުން “ނުކުރަންވީ ސަބަބެއް ނެތް” ކަމަށް މިނިސްޓަރީއިން ވަނީ ވިދާޅުވެފައެވެ.
މިޔަރަކީ ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ކަނޑުއަޑީގެ ނިޒާމުގެ ސިއްހަތު ދެމެހެއްޓުމުގައި ނުހަނު މުހިންމު ދައުރެއް އަދާކުރާ ދިރުމަކަށްވާއިރު، ރާއްޖެއަކީ މިޔަރު ހިމާޔަތްކޮށް މިޔަރުގެ އާބާދީގެރައްކާތެރިކަމަށް ދުނިޔޭގައި އުންމީދީ މާހައުލެއް ގާއިމްކޮށްފައިވާ ގައުމަކަށް ވީހިނދު، ދިވެހިރާއްޖެއިން ކްލައިމެޓް އިމަރޖެންސީ އިއުލާނުކޮށްފައިވާ މިފަދަވަގުތެއްގައި، މިޔަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަމަށް ހުއްދަ ދިނުމަކީ މި ކަންކަމާ މުޅިން ފުށުއަރާ ކަމެކެވެ.
އެހެންކަމުން، 10 އަހަރަށްވުރެ ގިނަދުވަސްވީ މިއަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަމާ ވިޔަފާރިކުރުން ރާއްޖޭގައި މަނާކޮށްފައިއޮތްއޮތުން ދެމެހެއްޓުމަށް، ތިރީގައި ސޮއިކޮށްފައިވާ މި މައްސަލައިގާ ކަންބޮޑުވާ ފަރާތްތަކުން ދައުލަތުގެ ކަމާބެހޭ ފަރާތްތަކަށް ގޮވާލަމެވެ.
ތިރީގައި ސޮއިކޮށްފައިވާ މި މައްސަލައިގާ ކަންބޮޑުވާ ފަރާތްތަކުން ދައުލަތުގެ ކަމާބެހޭ ފަރާތްތަކަށް ގޮވާލަނީ، މިޔަރު ހިމާޔަތްކުރުމާބެހޭ ޤާނޫނާއި ގަވައިދުތައް ތަންފީޒުކޮށް ނެގެހެއްޓުމަށާއި، މިއާ ޚިލާފުވާ ފަރާތްތައް ޖަވާބުދާރީކޮށް ފިޔަވަޅުއެޅުމަށާއި، ތިރީގައިވާ މައްސަލަތަކުގެ ތަހުޤީގުތައް އަވަސްކޮށް ދެފުށްފެންނަ ގޮތަށް ހިންގާ ބެލުމަށެވެ.
- ގަވާއިދާއި ހިލާފަށް ބޭރުކުރަން މަސައްކަތްކުރި 429 ކިލޯގެ މިޔަރު އުރަހަ މޯލްޑިވްސް ކަސްޓަމްސް އިން 3 ޖެނުއަރީ 2021 ވަނަ ދުވަހު ވެލާނާ އިންޓަނޭޝަނަލް އެއާރޕޯޓުން ހިފެހެއްޓާފައިވާ މައްސަލަ
- މިޔަރުގެ މަސްވެރިކަން ކުރަމުންދިޔަ މަސް ދޯންޏެއް ފުލުހުން ހިފަހައްޓައި 23 މާރޗް 2021 ގައި ގިނަ އަދަދެއްގެ މިޔަރާއި މިޔަރު އުރަހަ އަތުލައިގެންފައިވާ މައްސަލަ
- “ފިޝް ހެޑް” ގެ ނަމުން މަޝްހޫރު ޑައިވް ސައިޓުން 24 މާރޗް 2021 ވަނަ ދުވަހު މިޔަރުތަކެއް ރާއްޖޭގައި ބޭނުންކުރުން މަނާ މަސްވެރިކަމުގެ އާލާތެއްގައި ޖެހިފައިވަނިކޮށް ފަތުރުވެރިޔަކަށް ފެނި ރިޕޯޓްކޮށްފައިވާ މައްސަލަ
ކަނޑުގެ ދިރުންތަކަކީ ދިވެހިންގެ އާންމު ދިރިއުޅުމުގެ ސަލާމަތާއި ރައްކާތެރިކަމާ ވަރަށް ބޮޑަށް ގުޅިފައިވާ ގުދުރަތީ ވަސީލަތަކަށްވާ ހިނދު އަދި ރާއްޖެއަކީ 99 އިންސައްތަ ކަނޑުގެ ސަރަހައްދެއް ހިމެނޭ ގައުމަކަށް ވާއިރު، ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ގުދުރަތީ ނިޒާމު މިވަގުތު އޮތް ނާޒުކު ހާލަތަށް ރިއާޔަތްކޮށް ކަމާބެހޭ ފަރާތްތަކުން މިކަމަށް ބޮޑު އަހައްމިއްޔަތުކަމެއް ދިނުމަށް މިކަމާއި ކަންބޮޑުވާ ފަރާތްތަކުން ބާރުއަޅަމެވެ. މިވަގުތަކީ ގިނަ ކާރިސާތަކެއްގެ ގޮންޖެހުން ތަކަކާއި ކުރިމަތިވެފައިވާ ވަގުތެކެވެ. ކޮވިޑް 19ގެ ކާރިސާ އާއި އެކަމާ ގުޅިފައިވާ އިގްތިސާދީ ކާރިސާ އާއި ކުރިމަތިވެފައިވާއިރު، މޫސުމަށް އަންނަ ބަދަލުތަކާއި ތިމާވެށްޓަށް ދިމާވެފައިވާ ކާރިސާ ތަކުގެ ސަބަބުން ކުރިމަތިލާން ޖެހިފައިވާ ގޮންޖެހުންތައް ދާނި ކުރިއައްއޮތްތާގައި އިތުރުވަމުންނެވެ. މިއަރު ހިމާޔަތްކުރުމަކީ ދިވެހީންގެ ކުރިމަގާ ކުރިއެރުމުގެ ރައްކާތެރިކަމަށް ކޮންމެހެން ކުރަންޖެހޭ ކަމެކެވެ.
Joint Statement opposing the lifting of the shark ban in the Maldives
A series of events over the last three months have raised public anxiety and alarm over the possibility that the Maldives shark fishing ban (in place since March 2010) and the total trade ban (in place since July 2011) may be lifted. On 23 March 2021, responding to questions from Members of the Parliament at the Economic Affairs Committee of the People’s Majlis, the Minister of Fisheries, Marine Research and Agriculture, Zaha Waheed stated that her ministry was considering the option to lift the 11-year-old shark fishery ban. Minister Zaha said that she sees “no reason not to” lift the ban in order to reap benefits from this economic resource.
In January 2021, Maldivian media reported the discovery of nearly half a tonne of shark fins prepared and packed for illegal export at the country’s main international airport. The consignment valued at MVR 2.6 million was confiscated by the Customs Services at the Velana International Airport, and the case is still under investigation. On 24 March 2021 the Maldives Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture released a statement which said that a black market for the illegal trade of shark fins was prevalent in the Maldives. While the statement assured that the January case will be investigated, we express great concern about the continuing delays and lack of transparency in handling the above cases in violation of marine protection laws of the Maldives.
Non-governmental organisations, environmentalists, divers, and other stakeholders who recognise what a devastating impact this could have on the Maldivian marine environment and businesses that rely on the health of the it is extremely concerned that this is being considered.
Some of our key concerns are as follows:
- Sharks are essential for Maldives tourism
Sharks are extremely valuable for the Maldives tourism industry. Research on shark dive tourism in 2018 highlighted the important economic benefits of shark-diving tourism to the economy of the Maldives. Perceptions from the dive tourism sector of the Maldives showed that protected shark populations increased dive-trip demand by 15%, potentially resulting in an additional US$6 million for the Maldivian economy. Conversely, a negative perception of the Maldivian shark populations, a scenario likely to be perceived should the shark fishery re-open, decreased dive trip demand by up to 56%, resulting in a loss of more than US$24 million annually.
A report submitted to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture in 2011 compared historical income from shark diving and fishing in the early 90s, when the Maldives shark fishery was at its height. Divers spent around US$2.3 million to watch sharks in contrast to $0.7 million generated from all shark product exports. It is highly likely that a re-opening of the shark fishery would not generate an amount similar to the 90s with the associated decline in shark and ray products globally, with an increased numbers of shark species under trade and fishery restrictions at Convention International Trade Endangered Species (CITES) and at IOTC.
The Covid-19 global pandemic has had devastating consequences to the Maldivian economy with the collapse of the travel and tourism sectors globally. The situation demands that the Maldives guards and sustains its ecosystem services that are essential for economic recovery in the present, medium and longer term.
- There is no concrete evidence which proves that the Maldives’ shark populations have recovered since the ban was enforced
The available research does not confirm that the shark population in the Maldives have fully recovered and would not justify lifting the existing ban.
- Sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of the Maldives marine ecosystems
Sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of the Maldives marine environment which is integral to the country’s economy and the wellbeing of Maldivian people. Sharks are predatory species with large ecological function values that exert a powerful influence over lower levels and their elimination is known to have cascading effects on marine food chains and ecosystems. The integrity of the Maldives marine ecosystem would be compromised by reductions in the populations of these large predators.
Emerging research has also shown that the most important effects resulting from the loss of sharks in an ecosystem may actually be indirect and related to behavior rather than population structure. In other words, sharks may exert more of an influence on an ecosystem by causing organisms in that system to alter their behavior to avoid being eaten.
- Shark fishing is unsustainable
Sharks grow slowly, mature late, reproduce as infrequently as once every three years and produce few offspring, making them vulnerable to overexploitation. The life histories of sharks are more similar to those of large mammals than other fish. For example, dusky sharks, sperm whales, and brown bears each have gestation periods – the period from conception to birth – of more than a year. They also have few offspring, give birth to live young, and reproduce only once every few years. Female dusky sharks in the Atlantic Ocean do not mature until age 21, while female sperm whales and brown bears mature at about nine years.
In each of these instances, the animal’s life-history characteristics impact the entire population’s ability to grow. For example, a female shark that produced 10 pups every two years for 20 years would add only about 100 individuals to the population. In contrast, a female swordfish could theoretically contribute millions of offspring, and it is possible that thousands of these could survive if natural mortality from predators, disease, or starvation was low.
- A national fishing ban on sharks is the most practical management option for the Maldives
In a country where management and enforcement of conservation measures are challenging, the feasibility of a “managed shark fishery” as indicated by Minister Zaha Waheed, is very low.
All fisheries management measures in Maldives to curb the decline of shark stocks following the introduction of long-lining in the 1960s were unsuccessful, including shark fishing in the vicinity of tuna schools (1981, 1992) protection of dive sites (1995), fishing ban around seamounts and Fish Aggregating Devices (1996,1997) and the tourism zones (1998). As a result, the total ban was introduced.
There exists few to no cost-efficient, reliable, widely adopted methods that allow for selective, exclusive fishing of certain shark species which means that lifting the shark fishing ban would increase the likelihood that the Maldives would be in breach of international commitments its party. The Maldives is a signatory to several internationally binding agreements including CITES, IOTC and the Convention of Migratory Species. Fishing of several species-oceanic white tip, whale shark and all thresher sharks- would need to be prohibited nationally in line with conventions’ obligations and that would need to be properly enforced if the sanctuary was to be lifted.
- Sharks are already severely threatened globally
Globally, sharks are facing the largest crisis of their 420-million-year-old history. The global abundance of oceanic sharks and rays has declined by 71% since 1970 due to an 18-fold increase in fishing pressure. Three quarters of these species are now threatened with extinction. At least 100 million sharks are estimated to be killed annually, and the global trade of their fins which drives much of that catch is poorly regulated and deeply unsustainable.
- The Maldives is facing a climate crisis
Maldivian people are deeply concerned about the crisis they face as a result global warming and associated climate change with acute alarm of an existential crisis to the Maldives. In February 2020, the Maldives joined other nations in declaring a national climate emergency.
The IPCC states “B.4.2. Global warming of 1.5°C is projected to shift the ranges of many marine species to higher latitudes as well as increase the amount of damage to many ecosystems. It is also expected to drive the loss of coastal resources and reduce the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture (especially at low latitudes). The risks of climate-induced impacts are projected to be higher at 2°C than those at global warming of 1.5°C (high confidence). Coral reefs, for example, are projected to decline by a further 70–90% at 1.5°C (high confidence) with larger losses (>99%) at 2ºC (very high confidence). The risk of irreversible loss of many marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C or more (high confidence)”
The health and resilience of Maldivian marine ecosystems depends on the health of the shark population. Sharks are critical to the recovery of ecosystems from extreme climatic events. Research published this year shows how the loss of apex predators amplifies the climate change impacts on ecosystems (Nowicki et al, 2021).
- Sharks support Maldivian fisheries
A decade after the country’s shark fishing and trade ban, there is widespread concern from fisherfolk about the increased predation of their catches by sharks, and pressure is directed to the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture by Members of the Parliament to lift the ban. Fish are the natural prey of these apex predators so their predation levels are expected to increase as shark populations recover. By balancing the populations of fish in the food chain, sharks play a critical role in ensuring a constant supply of fish to sustain the livelihoods of fisherfolk and the fishery sector as a whole.
- The Maldives should not participate in the illegal and destructive global trade of sharks.
It is widely acknowledged that overfishing of sharks, primarily for their fins, is causing destruction to marine ecosystems at a global scale. It is the responsibility of countries to take control of their borders and prohibit the export of sharks, and in doing so stop supplying this market.
More than 70 million sharks are killed every year to cater to this trade. As a big ocean state, the Maldives has a moral obligation to stand up against this trade in recognition of the importance of sharks for all countries that are highly dependent ocean resources.
Managing shark fisheries and their trade for sustainability is incredibly expensive. Given that shark populations are already crashing and have not-recovered, already depleted populations, and would make no sense to the Maldives given the huge value sharks hold from a dive tourism perspective.
- Clarke SC, Magnussen JE, Abercrombie DL, McAllister MK & Shivji MS. (2006). Identification of Shark Species Composition and Proportion in the Hong Kong Shark Fin Market Based on Molecular Genetics and Trade Records. Conservation Biology, 20(1), 201-211.
- Davidson LNK, Krawchuk MA, & Dulvy NK. (2015). Why have global shark and ray landings declined: improved management or overfishing? Fish and Fisheries: 21.
- Dulvy NK, Fowler SL, Musick JA, Cavanagh RD, Kyne PM, Harrison LR, Carlson JK, Davidson LN, Fordham SV, Francis MP & Pollock CM. (2014). Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. Elife, 3, p.e00590.
- Nowicki, R. J., Thomson, J. A., Fourqurean J. W., Wirsing A. J., Heithaus, M. R. (2021). Loss of predation risk from apex predators can exacerbate marine tropicalization caused by extreme climatic events, Journal of Animal Animal Ecology, British Ecological Society. [DOI]
- Pacoureau, N., Rigby, C.L., Kyne, P.M. et al. (2021).Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays. Nature 589, 567–571. [DOI]
- Pramod G, Pitcher TJ, Pearce J & Agnew D. (2008). Sources of information supporting estimates of unreported fishery catches (IUU) for 59 countries and the high seas. Fisheries Centre Research Report, 16, 242.
Information for concerned citizens
If you would like to add your voice to calls to stop the lifting of a shark fishing ban in the Maldives, please email your concerns to the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture using the following template. (Please do keep any correspondence civil and polite).
Subject: Maintain the Maldives shark fishing ban
For the attention of: Fisheries Minister Zaha Waheed,
I wish to voice my strong objection to the proposed lifting of the shark fishing ban in the Maldives.
The Maldives should champion the conservation of its natural resources rather than prioritising short-sighted and unsustainable economic gain. I urge you to re-consider your stance and maintain and continue to enforce the current ban on shark fishing to protect our marine environment and their sustainable economic benefits.