Maldives pole-and-line tuna fishery renews Fair Trade certification, expands program

Published on
February 4, 2021

Horizon Fisheries, Blueyou Trading, and Fair Trade USA, the partners behind the world’s first ever dual-certified seafood product, are in the process of rolling out an expansion plan with Maldivian fishing communities and global retailers, according to a 3 February press release.

The dual certification involving the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Fair Trade labels, which was achieved in 2017, signifies that the tuna caught using pole-and-line gear by the fishing communities from five islands in the Maldives is sustainably managed, and that fishers are treated in socially equitable ways.

Fair Trade said that a series of recently completed community development projects in the Maldives show how coastal communities benefit from the certification. The pole-and-line fishery, comprised of a fleet of 33 family-owned vessels, recently renewed its Fair Trade certification and has held MSC approval since 2012.

Horizon Fisheries and Blueyou Trading work together to implement projects in the Maldives, they said in a press release, with the latter also acting as the global market access partner for the distribution of Fair Trade-certified products.

“For every certified canned tuna product sold, a premium of USD 40 [EUR 33] per ton of whole round skipjack tuna is sent directly back to the fishing communities by Blueyou,” the companies said.

The Fair Trade program supported by Horizon Fisheries and Blueyou has seen over 7,500 metric tons (MT) of certified tuna processed, a volume that has generated nearly USD 200,000 (EUR 166,330) in premiums for the local fishing communities, Fair Trade said.

“Sent directly to the fisher associations based on local islands, the Fair Trade premiums are being used to support community development and environmental projects," the partners said. "Most visible of these is the design and installation of a freshwater supply system at the home port of L. Gan, one of the islands participating in the Fair Trade program. This, combined with new water purifiers installed on vessels, leads to plastic waste reduction, since the fishers rely less on bottled drinking water, and increases the vessels’ independence from government-controlled utilities."

Additionally, the partners and the fishing communities have implemented updated fire safety equipment on vessels, purchased modern teaching equipment for schools, and constructed shaded outdoor reading areas for students.

“The Fair Trade tuna program by Horizon Fisheries and Blueyou is an example of the important impact that Fair Trade supply chains can have on fishing communities. By enabling funding to be transferred directly to the peoples who can implement change, the Fair Trade Fisher Associations in the Maldives demonstrate the full potential of Fair Trade certification to strengthen communities," Nancy Walker, who works in Fair Trade’s partnerships development division, said. "As premium is spent by the islands, we hope the program gathers momentum along with the increasing market demand for socially responsible seafood products."

Blueyou said that as “successes of the initial phase of the program in the Maldives multiply,” it is committed to creating and expanding direct market access for the Fair Trade-certified tuna products. The company is currently in the process of widening the reach of the Fair Trade program in the Maldives, “to keep supply aligned with growing demand,” it said.

“Blueyou is committed to further develop Fair Trade programs with community-based producers in both the wild-capture and aquaculture sectors – and to meet growing demand for high quality, sustainable, and socially responsible protein choices. We recognize the importance of practical solutions towards a just network of seafood supply chains from small-scale producers and we look forward to collaborating with responsible consumer brands and retailers who share our vision,” Blueyou Fair Trade Program Manager Thomas Egli said.

Through various means, including “onboarding additional, mission-oriented consumer brands and developing direct supply chains for retail private label,” Blueyou said it plans on upping sales volumes of Fair Trade-certified tuna from the Maldives to 300 FCL per year, which translates to an annual tuna catch in the range of 10,000 MT.

“The next phase of our Fair Trade program in the Maldives will build on the early-stage successes and shall integrate additional island communities into the program. Fair Trade not only creates direct benefits for the participating fishing villages but sustains employment opportunities in the local canning industry,” Blueyou Managing Director René Benguerel said. “Instead of shipping frozen tuna raw material to Southeast Asia for processing, the Maldives can manufacture a high-quality, fully traceable, and socially inclusive product domestically. For retail and consumer brands, such fully inclusive seafood supply chains significantly reduce social risks associated with high-seas fishing and labor-intensive manufacturing – as it is the case in the canned tuna industry.”

Retailers and consumers have been increasingly recognizing the value of certified seafood, including German distributor Followfood, which called the Horizon and Blueyou Fair Trade program “a critical success factor for establishing its canned tuna product line.”

“We believe that Fair Trade, combined with strict environmental standards, should be the future benchmark for all seafood products harvested by small-scale producers and communities worldwide,” Followfood Managing Director and Founding Partner Jürg Knoll said. ”The Fair Trade label certainly added significant value to our consumer brand Followfish – and we are looking forward to expand our portfolio of Fair Trade-certified seafood products in the future.”

Horizon Fisheries has pledged to continue its investment into further processing capacities in the Maldives.

“We are looking forward to continue our partnership with FTUSA and Blueyou. Producing Fair Trade-certified shelf-stable tuna products at our local factory reflects our company’s long-standing commitment towards a fair and socially responsible partnership with fishers, island communities, and our factory workers in the Maldives. The Fair Trade premium and the projects it supports have strengthened our relationship with the fishers throughout the Maldives,” Horizon Fisheries Managing Director Mohamed Yaqzan said.

Photo courtesy of Fair Trade USA/Horizon Fisheries/Blueyou Trading

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