Maldives backpaddles after outcry over lifting shark fishing ban

Maldives backpaddles after outcry over lifting shark fishing ban

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Maldives government issue a media statement addressing global concerns around potential amendments to ban on shark fishing.

Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk
(File photo) Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk

Shark fishing was completely banned in the Maldives in 2010 so when the country announced plans to discuss legalising the practice again, it created a massive backlash from the international community.

Sharks have always been a valuable tourist attraction in the small island nation and the declining status of shark fisheries, exacerbated by unresolved conflicts with other stakeholders led to the declaration of total shark fishing ban in 2010. With the shark fishing ban in place, sharks are now caught as bycatch in the Maldivian fisheries.

Shark sanctuary

After banning the trade completely in 2011, the Maldives has become known as a shark sanctuary, attracting shark diving tourists and generating millions of dollars every year in tourism revenue, according to Transparency Maldives. 

However, just recently, Maldives Minister of Fisheries Zaha Waheed stated that discussions were taking place to decide whether legalising shark fishing would provide economic benefits. Commercial shark fishing “presents a profitable revenue-generation strategy for the state,” Waheed told the Maldivian Parliament.

More than 100 international and local organizations devoted to the preservation of marine wildlife raised their voice against the proposed lifting of the 11-year ban on shark fishing.


In a statement released on 20 April, the Ministry of Fisheries wishes to clarify that statements made in relation to the discussion on re-instating longline fishery and concerning the potential bycatch of sharks in the longline fishery, including management of this bycatch, in no way were focused on lifting the ban on shark fishery.

"The Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture does not intend to permit a targeted shark fishery in the Maldives. The Ministry understands the concerns raised by fishers over impacts to their livelihood and welcomes open dialogue with all stakeholders on how best to protect our shared natural resources while maintaining sustainable traditional means of livelihoods," the Ministry writes

"in no way were these discussions focused on lifting the ban on shark fishery. "

Media Statement

Maldives' Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources,and Agriculture