Gov conducts research, as it ponders lifting shark fishing ban

This underwater photo shows a shark swimming in the Farekede area of Fuvahmulah City. (Photo/Farekede Divers)

The Fisheries Ministry says it is conducting a study to decide on whether to lift the current ban on shark fishing, amid complaints regarding shark attacks.

Mohamed Muthalib, the state minister for fisheries, said that studies conducted by the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI) do not indicate an increase in shark populations.

However, in face of mounting concern over cases of shark attacks, some of which have resulted in serious injuries and even fatalities, the ministry decided to conduct more research on the subject.

According to Muthalib, the ministry will decide on whether to lift the current ban on shark fishing based on the findings.

Commercial shark fishing in the Maldives began in 1970 and was banned in 2010 - along with the sale and export of all related products - following a decline in shark populations.

Muthalib said that another reason for the decision for the ban had been the popularity of sharks among tourists.

While MMRI’s studies do not show a rise in shark populations, Muthalib said that his personal experience, as well as accounts of multiple fishermen indicates otherwise.

“From what can be seen with our own eyes, from the accounts of various people, from what has been happening and the information provided by fishermen, shark populations has seen a sharp increase,” he said.

“Scientifically speaking, an unusual increase in sharp populations will result in an ecological imbalance.”

He said that it poses a danger to the marine ecosystem, as well as humans.

“What happens is, sharks feed on small fish and anything else they can find in the ocean. But if they aren’t able to get enough, they also attack humans who venture into the waters,” he said.

Muthalib said that the practice by divers and tourists of feeding sharks poses a great threat.

He said that if the sharks don’t get enough to eat, it will do anything to feed.

He stressed the danger the practice poses.

Fishermen have repeatedly voiced concern about the difficulties they face due to sharks. There have been several incidents of shark attacks which have left people severely injured. On Sunday, a young military officer died after getting attacked by a shark during training at L. Kadhdhoo.