Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has announced to extend the previous 12 nautical mile moratorium within 7 regions to all the atolls in the Maldives. The government has also announced its commitment to extend the moratorium to a possible ban of shark fisheries in the Maldives. This has proved to be a remarkable step by the current government despite the previous government’s reluctance to act on the issue.
As noted by a lot of divers and environmentalists, the reef sharks have been overfished in the Maldives and the status of the Oceanic sharks are unknown in the Maldivian waters. Adding to it, there is a global concern of depleting shark stocks and a precautionary approach has to be adopted to tackle the problem.
Maldives obtain the benefits of sharks from its existence value, i.e. tourism and from the knowledge and the perceptions of locals and foreigners that sharks do exist in Maldivian waters and it is not been overfished. The benefits could also be redeemed through its non-existing value or through fishing, processing and exporting it. Since the Maldivians do not consume shark and shark products, it is solely exported. However, it should be noted that the main product has been shark fins and shark oil and the meat is mostly thrown away. This has been the main concern of environmentalists about the inhumane treatments for sharks.
From the research conducted by researchers in the field, shows that the existing value of sharks in the Maldives is much higher than when it has been fished. Hence, economically it is more feasible for the general population who is the resource owner of it, to redeem the benefits from its existing value. However, these benefits could only be encapsulated if the existing value is internalized through taxes, royalties, payment procedures etc.
At this point, it should be noted that the livelihoods of the fishermen would be heavily affected from such a ban and we should not neglect them even though the ban is for the betterment of our future. Luckily the Maldivian shark fisheries is seasonal and the fishermen tend to find alternative employment during low-fishing seasons. So it might be easier for the government to facilitate alternative employment for the fishermen.
The current moratorium is just the beginning of the work to climb up the hill. There should be more research, time frame to achieve the targets, monitoring mechanisms etc..