Reef Fisheries Research Programme
Historically, reef fishing was carried out on a very small-scale, solely for local consumption. However, with the development of the tourism industry in the late 1970s, the small-scale reef fishery commercialized rapidly. The generic reef fishery which targets a wide variety of reef fish, including species belonging to the families Carangidae, Lutjanidae and Lethrinidae, mainly caters for the country’s tourism industry. With Maldives’ exposure to international markets a smaller component of the reef fish catch has also started contributing to the country’s marine exports.
Another significant reef-associated fishery which targets grouper species, started out at a very small scale in the early 1980s and expanded rapidly during the 1990s. The grouper fishery is now a fully developed commercial fishery solely targeting the export industry. Groupers are exported live and chilled to Southeast Asian markets. The current value of grouper exports stands at USD 4.2 Million.
Due to the ever-increasing demand for reef fish species from the tourism industry, export industry and the local population, there is growing concern for the future of reef fish.
As reef fish species are long-lived with late maturity and low fecundity, compared to pelagic species, they are more vulnerable to overfishing. And unlike pelagic species, reef fish species generally tend to inhabit the same reefs throughout their adult lives which can put them under additional pressure if fishing is carried out from the same reefs continuously over time. For these reasons, exploitation of reef fish should be properly managed for it to be sustainable.
Grouper Fishery Management Plan
A grouper fishery review made in 2011 showed a drastic decline, compared with previous studies, in the numbers and sizes of groupers caught which is indicative of a declining fishery. Realising the need for immediate action, a Grouper Fishery Management Plan was formulated in a stakeholder workshop involving grouper fishermen, exporters, island councils and other law enforcement agencies. The Grouper Management Plan was approved by the cabinet on 8th August 2012 and launched by the President of Maldives, H.E. Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan on 25th December 2012. The Grouper Fishery and Export Regulation of the Maldives finally came into effect on 16th November 2014.
The main management measures taken under the Grouper Fishery Management Plan are:
1. Grouper catch and export size limits
2. Designation of 5 grouper spawning aggregation sites as MPAs
1. Current Status of the Reef Fisheries of Maldives and Recommendations for Management
2. Magement Plan for the Grouper Fishery of the Maldives
3. Review of the Maldivian Grouper Fishery and Export Industry
4. Rapid Fishery Survey 2015