A new Ensis Fisheries factory under development in the Maldives aims to provide a steady supply of canned and pouched skipjack tuna certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to markets in the United States and Europe.
Ensis is investing USD 15 million (EUR 14.2 million) in the cannery, which is designed to handle 25 metric tons of raw material per day. The facility will also have a cold storage capacity of 1,500 metric tons, designed to allow the company more capacity to purchase tuna from local pole-and-line fishermen in the Maldives, which Ensis plans to turn into an increase in export volumes.
Ensis Co-Owner and Director Abdul Wahid Thowfeeq said the new cannery, in Hulhumalé, is in an ideal location for exporting tuna, particularly to its target markets of the United States and Europe.
“The plant is located within 10 minutes’ drive to the airport and 20 minutes’ journey to the main seaport, giving the best logistical advantages,” Thowfeeq said. “The company has its own fleet of refrigerated trucks and uses gel ice in packaging, to export seafood in temperature-controlled conditions that preserve the integrity of the cold chain from harvest to the customer.”
Ensis’ investment in the cannery is part of the company’s commitment to sustainability, as it will negate the necessity of sending its raw material to Thailand for processing, Thowfeeq said.
“We believe it is more sustainable to can at the source of fishing, rather than ship to Thailand,” he said. “Having our cannery also means we have full control over the finished products.”
The Maldives’ pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishery has been certified as sustainable by MSC since 2012. Ensis will also produce yellowfin tuna at the new facility, though the Maldives pole-and-line yellowfin tuna fishery recently lost its MSC certification due to overfishing by large, foreign purse-seining companies operating in the Indian Ocean.
Pole-and-line fishing is the most selective and most environmentally sound method of fishing skipjack tuna, according to many sustainable fishing organizations, including the International Pole and Line Foundation and Greenpeace.
"It can have very low bycatch levels and also ensure a much higher quality of fish, as every fish caught is brought on board alive,” Sari Tolvanen, ocean campaigner for Greenpeace International, said. "With skipjack accounting for over half of the world's tuna catches, retailers should support sustainable and equitable options through a transition towards local pole and line tuna fisheries."
Ensis Fisheries has numerous certifications ensuring the quality of its products, including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices, GMP and Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures, ISO 22000, and BRC (British Retail Consortium) certifications. Tuna produced by Ensis is dolphin-safe, as certified by the Earth Island Institute, and holds Friend of the Sea certification.
In addition, Ensis has been recognized for its work supporting the local community in the Maldives, having received the Maldives President Public Service Award and recognition from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). Its new cannery, when complete, will add to its local impact by employing around 250 people in the Maldives.
“We think the Maldives has a good reputation, a good story, with artisanal fishermen catching one at a time,” Thowfeeq said.
“We at Ensis have fully committed to maintaining a sustainable fishery that will continue to support the local economy and community in the Maldives into the future, while providing our customers all around the globe with the choicest and most reliable tuna products.”