Tuna is one of the Maldives’ favourite foods and one which many people all over the world enjoy. Here at Innahura Maldives, we are surrounded by ocean with an abundant supply of tuna, thanks to the sustainable fishing methods used here for centuries.
World Tuna Day is celebrated annually on 2nd May and aims to highlight the importance of tuna in the marine ecosystem as well as the need to ensure fishing practices are sustainable, the Maldives is a very good example of how using sustainable methods can protect the supply and marine environment as a whole – you simply need to go scuba diving and snorkelling to see for yourselves – divers might even spot a tuna passing along the outer reefs. Sadly, the same is not the case in many other areas of the world.
The art of pole and line tuna fishing has been practised by Maldivians for hundreds of years and the skills are passed down through many generations. Lined up at the back of the dhoni boat, the group of fishermen cast their rods with barbless hooks into the water where baitfish have been thrown to create the illusion of prey for the tuna and so lure them in. Once a bite is felt, the fishermen quickly swing the pole overhead and the tuna lands onto the deck behind them, repeating this for hours at a time, catching one tuna at a time. Bycatch is rare due to each fish being individually caught, and this means our turtles, sharks, dolphins, and other species are safe – unlike when nets are used to indiscriminately catch fish. The Maldivian pole and line fishing method poses no threat to the environment but unfortunately it is not widespread in other areas of the world due to it being very labour-intensive and requiring a lot of skill.
The marine ecosystem is delicate, with the balance of nature easily upset and each species plays an important role in keeping the balance so preventing overfishing is imperative. Tuna are both predators and prey, they eat smaller fish and invertebrates, and are also a food source for larger marine life, such as sharks and whales. If predator and prey populations are not kept as nature intended, entire food chains can become unbalanced and lead to the eventual extinction of many other species. By preventing overfishing, we also safeguard tuna supplies for the future. You can help by ensuring the tuna you eat is sustainably caught, preferably by the pole and line method.