The Maldives is a garland of islands scattered across the Indian ocean. Historians do not know when our ancestors first settled on the islands. However, historical evidence shows that the Maldivian civilization is over 3000 years old. Great empires across the globe rose and fell, and the Maldives remained strong. The Maldivians persevered and flourished in the middle of the vast Indian ocean for one important reason: the expertise of our fishermen and the blessings of abundant oceans.
The Maldivian reefs are home to a variety of marine animals, such as snappers, groupers, emperors, reef jacks, and, of course, reef sharks. Non invertebrates such as sea cucumbers, lobsters, giant clams and black corals also take part in the dance of life beneath the waters. As you venture into the deep blue ocean, you can find the most important fish for Maldivians, tuna. Skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna play an important role in the lives and livelihood of Maldivians..
The fishing industry employs a significant portion of the Maldivian workforce. It is the second largest industry in Maldives, second only to the tourism industry. Historically, the Maldives exported dried tuna to neighboring countries. In Sri Lanka, the famous ‘Maldive fish’ is a key ingredient in a variety of cuisines. In 1979, the Maldivian government created the Maldives Industrial Fisheries company, which processed and exported frozen and canned tuna to the global market. Since then, Maldivian fish exports are considered as some of the freshest, delicious and sought after fish products in the world.
Sustainable Fishing: An Ancient Art
Fishing in the Maldives is family and community-centered. Traditionally, all members of society took part in the activity. While the men caught fish, the women of the community dried, processed, and prepared the fish for consumption or export. Fishing held the community together. It provided sustenance and income to the community.
We understood the fragility and limitations of nature. We understood that as long as we respected the rhythms and cycles of nature, we would reap bountiful harvests and catch. We sustain ourselves with the abundance of fish that surrounds us. Maldivian fishermen used fishing techniques that reduced unwanted bycatch and avoided rapid depletion of fish stocks. These techniques are pole and line fishing, handline, and longline.
From these, the pole and line method is most commonly used. Pole and line accounts for over 65% of skipjack tuna fishing and 55% of yellowfin tuna. There are methods that can have greater yields, such as fishing with nets, bottom trawling, and even the use of explosives. Our fishermen understood these methods are incredibly dangerous to the fragile ecosystems, and that disaster will follow periods of unsustainably high yields. The traditional fishing methods reflect the Maldivians’ respect and understanding of nature’s limits and boundaries.
Fishing Adventures in Maldives
Fishing and tourism are deeply intertwined. Both industries ultimately depend upon the abundance and beauty of life in the oceans that surround the islands. For travelers adventuring in the Maldives, there are countless opportunities for leisure fishing in the country.
Big game fishing and night fishing are two of the most popular excursions in Maldives. Keep in mind that there is a blanket ban on fishing from the shore on most resorts, while some islands permit fishing, so travelers must enquire with the resort staff prior to an excursion. Regardless, casting a line from the boat is the authentic Maldivian fishing experience. During a big game of fishing, travelers can expect to catch tuna, barracuda, dorado, sailfish, and wahoos.
Night fishing is one of the most exciting fishing excursions one can have in the Maldives. On a clear night, millions of bright stars light up the equatorial night sky, and you can see precisely where the sky ends and the ocean begins. Night fishing can yield unique fish such as barracudas, snappers, emperors and squirrel fish.
Whether you stay in a resort, guesthouse, liveaboard or hotel, you will find a variety of operators providing daily fishing trips, with options such as half-day, full-day, to even several day-long excursions. The experienced guides will provide you with the equipment, advice, and all the help you can ask for.
The Maldives is, at its core, a seafaring civilization. The sun, sand, and sea are not tourist attractions, they are an essential element of the Maldivian identity. For thousands, the Maldivians sustained themselves with their expertise in fishing. To this day, it is an essential part of who we are.
Thus, when the traveler embarks on a fishing voyage, they are taking part in an ancient tradition. We hope these excursions provide an opportunity for travelers to learn about sustainable methods of fishing, and take these lessons with them. Ultimately, fishing is the most ancient and valued industry in the Maldives.