Just weeks after worrying initial reports, we are delighted to report that the Maldivian Government has confirmed it WILL NOT be lifting the long-standing shark fishing ban.
The news was announced by passionate shark enthusiasts and concerned stakeholders, Shark Guardian, after they met with the Maldivian Minister of Fisheries, Zaha Waheed, and the Senior Fisheries Officer, Munshidha Ibrahim, to discuss the matter. During the meeting, Minister Waheed is quoted to have said “there is no talk about uplifting the legislation,” going on to suggest she was 99.9% certain the shark fishing ban would remain in place during her time in office, and into the near future.
Shark Guardian also notes that Minister Waheed has fought for the current ban on numerous occasions over the last few years, against MPs who continue to press for its re-legalisation, positioning herself as a strong advocate of shark conservation in the country. In fact, the minister’s final remarks in her meeting with Shark Guardian were “I hope we were clear about and assured that we’re not opening up the shark fishery” - a statement that is hard to rebuke.
In response to the initial reports of the government’s plans to lift the ban, the Maldivian Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Director-General Ibrahim Naeem reportedly stated
This would appear to support Minister Waheed’s suggestion that several of her quotes were taken out of context, and that she was actually referring to the possible introduction of long-line tuna fishing operations. If long-lining were to begin, there would be inevitable and indiscriminate shark bycatch. Waheed told Shark Guardian, “Right now, nobody can land anything, even if it is dead or alive, so nobody can touch any of the sharks but once in a [tuna] fishery … there has to be a system through which we can do the reporting and be accountable. That’s the only piece of change which we are suggesting.”
Whether the result of miscommunication or a deliberate shift in stance due to public pressure, the stability of the current shark fishing ban is certainly a relief for the local shark population and ocean-enthusiasts alike. However, alongside Shark Guardian, at ZuBlu we remain in opposition to the opening of a long-line tuna fishery within the Maldives, as well as any trade of shark bycatch.