The Maldives Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources, and Agriculture said mounting calls for a boycott of Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna by retailers are “unfair and unwarranted,” especially when its government has always advocated for sustainable fishing.
The status of the stocks, the country said, is of great concern to the country, and a boycott will only have a negative impact on the workforce of the country.
“The status of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock and the recent calls to boycott yellowfin tuna caught from the Indian Ocean from major retailers is of great concern to the Maldives. As a responsible fishing nation, the Maldives has always advocated for and stood by the principles of sustainable fishing,” the statement said. “Such a boycott will have a major impact on the economy of the Maldives and the standard of living of more than 15 percent of the workforce that make a living from our already sustainable and responsible fisheries sector.”
It also expressed concern that none of the civil society organizations that have been calling for the boycott have reached out to the Maldives or the G16-group of like-minded Indian Ocean coastal states, in spite of its previous work to address the issue of yellowfin tuna stock.
The Maldives said that it has been instrumental in a rebuilding plan of the stocks after an assessment of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock by the scientific committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in 2015 identified the species as overfished and subject to overfishing.
In the statement, the government said it has a five-point plan to rebuild the overfished stocks. Some of the steps it would take is to enter into a fisheries improvement program (FIP) by December 2020, to focus on improving the status of the yellowfin tuna stocks through advocacy, and establishing sound management of the stock.
It also vows to start a pre-assessment process for Marine Stewardship Council certification of the handline yellowfin tuna fishery of the Maldives, and to work with key fishing nations to develop and revise the current resolution on a yellowfin tuna rebuilding plan “to ensure that yellowfin tuna stock is revived to sustainable levels in a reasonable time frame.”
The government is also advocating for an early annual session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in the first quarter of 2021 to address the issue of the yellowfin tuna stock status.
Earlier this month, the United Kingdom-based retailer Co-op pledged to not sell any own-brand or branded yellowfin tuna in its stores until stocks in the Indian Ocean are managed sustainably. The retailer said it hopes that the issue of overfishing will be addressed in IOTC ’s annual meeting scheduled next month.
Photo courtesy of byvalet/Shutterstock