Government Minister Announces Discussions to Legalise Maldives Shark Fishing
The Maldives' government has announced that discussions are taking place to legalise commercial shark fishing.
According to local news reports, the Maldives' Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture, Zaha Waheed, has said lifting the ban 'presents a profitable revenue-generation strategy for the state.'
Speaking at the People's Majlis (the Maldivian Parliament) Committee on Economic Affairs, Waheed reportedly said: 'Very few countries implement shark conservation. Since it is a means to generate profit we don’t have to limit ourselves. [We can] open [shark fishing] as a managed fishery for a certain duration and fish without endangering the shark population.'
Shark fishing was banned completely in the Maldives in 2010, following a reported decline in shark populations, which have become increasingly valuable as a tourist attraction.
A 2009 study by researchers at James Cook University, however, estimated that a single grey reef shark was worth $3,300 to the Maldivian tourism industry, compared with just $32 as a landed catch. A 2019 study found that business revenue from shark divers in the Maldives was estimated to be U $14.4million, with up to US$51.4million in revenue generated by local businesses 'associated with the travel expenses of shark divers'; US$7.2 million in tax receipts; and US$4.1 million in employee salaries.
In January 2021, Maldives Customs seized twenty-one boxes of fins weighing a total of 429kg due to be illegally exported from the Maldives through Velana International Airport (VIA). The sharks had been caught within the Maldives' waters, and social media users pointed at corrupt government officials as being allegedly responsible for the haul, valued at approximately US$170,000 at the time.
Maldives residents have taken to social media to protest the minister's comments.