blacktip reefshark Maldives bans reef shark fishing by March 2010The Maldives is planning to ban shark fishing in its waters, a move which would make the Maldives the first nation in the region to enact such a protective law.

The announcement was made by the Maldives Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr Hussein Rasheed Hassan, at the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission steering committee meeting in Mombasa.

We have realised that it is more economically viable to leave the shark and other sea creatures unharmed because the country currently earns about $7 million annually from the diving industry,” said the minister.

In 1998, the Maldives imposed a 10-year moratorium banning shark fishing around seven atolls that received a lot of vacationers from abroad. Now, the country intends to expand the ban to include all reef shark fishing across the Maldives within a 12 nautical mile radius (22km).

During recent years, the number of sharks in the Maldives has plummeted due to overfishing for the lucrative shark fin market.

The marine ecosystem is very fragile and that is why we have to regulate activities that coupled with the treats of climate change could adversely affect the major sources of income for the country,” Hassan explained.

The Maldives is an island country consisting of a group of atolls stretching south of India’s Lakshadweep islands. Despite having a population of no more than roughly 300,000 individuals, the Maldives receives over 600,000 tourists each year.