Fishing in the Maldives is not just a job – it’s a way of life. As your Trans Maldivian Airways flight takes you from Malé to your resort island you will see that the ocean below dominates the view. With land making up just 1% of the Maldives’ area it’s hardly surprising that fishing is so important. Tuna is the country’s largest export and second only to tourism in the income generated. Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna are caught with the traditional pole and line method. Tuna caught in Maldives accounts for around a quarter of the worlds total, about half of it is exported, the other half consumed here at home in the Maldives.
Although heavily relied upon for the local economy, fishing here in the Maldives is sustainable; methods have remained unchanged for many years, it is an art passed down from one generation to the next. With the pole and line method fishermen create a feeding frenzy by throwing bait into the waters and sprinkling the surface with water jets to entice the hungry tuna by simulating a bait ball. At the back of the flat-ended boat, fishermen flick the tuna onboard with their pole and line, one by one. Pole and line fishing ensures sustainability, the ocean is not indiscriminately emptied by use of nets which, not only over fish the tuna, but have sizeable by catches of shark, rays, turtles and dolphins too.
Maldivian fisheries are popular with retailers due to the lack of by catch – they are world famous for being dolphin friendly. Next time you are in the supermarket and see the ‘dolphin friendly’ promise on the side of a tuna can think of the Maldivian fishermen catching each tuna one by one and there by leaving enough in the ocean for tomorrow.