yellowfin tunaSustainability is integrated into Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna fishing activities, said the Maldives government. Photo: NOAA

The Maldives government has defended Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna fishing practises and said calls for a boycott are “unfair and unwarranted”.

Achieving sustainable tuna fisheries is a key objective for the Maldives, said the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture. The recent calls to boycott yellowfin tuna caught from the Indian Ocean from major retailers is of great concern to the Maldives as it will majorly affect the economy, the Ministry stated.

“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,” said the Ministry.

IOTC assessment

Following the assessment of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock by the Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in 2015 as overfished and subject to overfishing, the Maldives played a key role in formulating the initial version of a resolution to rebuild stock which was adopted in 2016.

The Maldives has also gone beyond the requirements of the Resolution to limit overall catch from the fleet, said the Ministry.

Five actions

The Maldives and the Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association (MSPEA) have agreed on five actions. They will 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. They will also initiate a pre-assessment process for MSC certification of the handline yellowfin tuna fishery of the Maldives.

They will advocate to fast track the adoption of a draft proposal on a management procedure for yellowfin tuna at the IOTC. They will work with key fishing nations to develop and revise the current resolution on yellowfin tuna rebuilding plans to ensure that yellowfin tuna stock is revived to sustainable levels in a reasonable time frame. They will also advocate for an early annual session of the IOTC in the first quarter of 2021 to urgently address yellowfin tuna stock status.

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