Untitled Document


A Fisherman's Tale

Fishing is a way of life in the Maldives. It is the lifeblood of its coastal villages, where a traditional pole and line method is used to sustainably catch tuna, one-by-one, ensuring fish for future generations.


li Saeed, master fisherman, operates one of the largest 'dhoni' fishing boats from the island of Hulhumeedhoo in the Addu atoll. He inherited his first fishing boat from his father 25 years ago while aged just 20. His island community, home to 4,000 people, has seen a leap in prosperity in recent years as demand for sustainable tuna has risen. He first employed 12 fishermen, but this has increased in recent years to 26. He is now building a new and bigger brick home for his family. "We only catch tuna, nothing else, because our lines are specially made for tuna, so it is not possible for any shark or dolphin to get injured or killed," he says.

In New Zealand pole and line caught tuna is sold under the Pams and Fish 4Ever labels. Greenseas and John West have committed to phase out unsustainably caught tuna by 2015. Sealord, which is New Zealand’s largest canned tuna brand is refusing to change.

 Pole and line fisherman Ali Seed



rowing consumer awareness about the overfishing crisis facing our oceans has increased demand for sustainably and equitably caught and produced tuna, particularly in key markets in Europe, the US and Japan. UK retailers such as Sainsbury's, M&S and Waitrose, for example, have for several years sourced their tuna from Maldivian fishers, because of its lack of by-catch. The extra jobs created by pole and line tuna entails a modest premium to be paid by retailers. Sainsbury's, M&S, and Waitrose have absorbed these costs for sustainably-minded consumers, who, through their buying power, have brought greater wealth to island communities like Hulhumeedhoo.

 Fisherman's family eating



aeed and his family enjoy a lunch of tuna and rice. Proud of the education he has provided to his four children, Saeed also says one of his children has set up a fish export company, keeping the family interest in a practice that has served his island for generations.



Hussin Ahmed Maagasdhoshuge, 53


as worked for 16 years with fisherman Ali Saeed, 10 of them as a bait fisherman. He has sent all three of his children to school in the capital Male, where his wife spends part of the year with them in a rented apartment. The children return to his home village for three months every year during the school holidays.

Ahmed Zahir Lainofaruge, 36


as spent nine years on Saeed's boat and dreams of becoming a fishing boat captain with a boat of his own. "Saeed is a very good fishing master. I also want to become a master fisherman," he says. "Pole and line fishing ensures that the fish will remain here. It is sustainable. If they use a net, then all the fish is gone and there is no fish to catch the next day."









he pole and line fishing method is comprised of two interlinked fisheries; one for live bait and one for tuna. It is important that also bait fisheries are monitored and managed so that adverse impacts to marine systemic and other species dependent on bait fish for food do not result from bait usage. The availability of bait is a key factor when assessing the suitability of pole and line fisheries development.




uel consumption depends on many things and varies between the type of boat and the location, season etc. If fishing vessels are modern and use fuel efficient engines and fish in a manner that minimises fuel use, for example around anchored FADs, pole and line fisheries have the capacity to be quite fuel efficient. In the past, pole and line vessels used sails to reach fishing grounds and this could also be considered as part of the fleet design. Sustainability is a holistic concept and a fishery must first operate by using sustainable methods and target healthy stocks. After that it needs to ensure its carbon emissions and other environmental impacts are minimised.


The Only Solution?


reenpeace does not advocate for the entire world's skipjack catch to be caught by pole and line only. This is clearly not possible due to limitations in sustainable baitfish supplies. Neither is this desirable for all coastal states as some rely heavily on purse seine fisheries and do not have the possibility to develop other fisheries. As an alternative to the development of sustainable pole and line fisheries, Greenpeace advocates for more sustainable purse seine fishing without the use of FADs.



fast facts


any of the world’s tuna species, such as bluefin, bigeye and some yellowfin and albacore tuna populations, are already heavily depleted due to years of overfishing. Greenpeace is advocating that coastal states, where suitable conditions exist, develop domestic pole and line fisheries, viewed as the most environmentally responsible method of catching tuna. The Maldives pole and line fishery is a successful coastal, state-run tuna fishing operation that has yielded impressive socioeconomic benefits. Many retailers and tuna labels have indicated that they would be willing to change their entire skipjack supply to pole and line, if it was available.





"Earlier the men would just go fishing and now the people are sending their children to schools. We can also see the difference in the dhonis. We have high-tech machinery like GPS systems now"

Ali Mohamed, vice president of the town board on Hulhumeedhoo, describing his village's increased prosperity.

"As the global industry responds to the need to source tuna sustainably,
it is increasingly clear that some businesses are rising to the challenges
this presents and demonstrating their ability to operate innovatively,
ambitiously and decisively, while others are stalling and risk competitive
advantage by losing access to sustainable supplies"

Ally Dingwall, Agriculture and Fisheries Manager, Sainsbury’s.


International Pole & Line Foundation