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Reef resources have traditionally been exploited at a very low level in the Maldives, where the oceanic tuna fishery was for centuries the major economic activity. In recent years, however, the use of reef resources has increased dramatically with the growth of the tourist industry, the development of new export markets for reef fishery products, and the growth of the Maldivian population. The consequences of this increased reef resources usage include: overt fishing of some reef resources (with resultant loss of income to fishermen and the country as a whole); increased reef degradation (with resultant losses to some fishery stocks, and increased island erosion); and an increase in conflicts between reef resource users.

Healthy coral reefs are vitally important to the two major industries of the Maldives: tourism and fisheries. Recognizing this, and the need to address the problems resulting from increased reef resource usage, the Government of Maldives is promoting a policy of Integrated Reef Resources Management (IRRM). IRRM aims to involve all reef users from both government and private sectors in the process of collaborative reef management. As an early step in this process, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MOFA), with some assistance from the Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP), has developed an IRRM Programme. Under this Programme four central atolls (Vaavu, Meemu, Faafu and Dhaalu) have been identified in which trial IRRM activities will be undertaken, before being spread to the rest of the country.

Also under this Programme, Workshop was held in Malé in March 1996, to identify key issues and objectives for the IRRM process, and make recommendations for its implementation.

The National Workshop on Integrated Reef Resources Management was held 16-20 March, 1996 at the Maldives Center for Social Education, Malé. Issues were discussed under four main resource headings: reef fisheries; the livebait fishery; coral mining; and tourism reef resource interaction. Specific recommendations arising from these discussions are listed in Sections 2 to 5. Recommendations apply to the general IRRM process and are relevant to all resource headings listed below.

During the workshop, the mornings were spent mainly presenting the papers, while the afternoon sessions were devoted to working groups. Students' working groups were conducted separately while national delegates, observers as well as international experts formed working groups to discuss the major issues outlined.

The Ministry of Fisheries has presented the following recommendations passed by the workshop to the Fisheries Advisory Board, in order to initiate implementation of the Integrated Reef Resources Management Programme in the Four Selected Atolls: Vaavu, Meemu, Faafu and Dhaalu. The recommendations were endorsed by the FAB in 1996.

Overall recommendations for IRRM

· Initiate a collaborative, participatory reef resources monitoring and management program involving people directly concerned with reef resource utilization (e.g. fisherfolk, the tourism industry, coral miners etc), as well as Government, relevant NGOs and other stakeholders. This will require the development of a mechanism for coordination and cooperation among all parties in order to develop strategy and to implement recommendations and identified actions. A commitment to change is required from all parties if the aims of the IRRM process are to be achieved.

· Introduce pilot-scale IRRM programmes on an atoll by atoll basis, working through existing Atoll Development Committees and Island Development Committees (and fisheries subcommittees if present). One option would be to introduce Reef Resources Committees in Malé and the Atolls. The Committees would help to guide monitoring and research and to manage resources. The Committees should represent a full cross-section of interests.

· Increase awareness of the fishing community in particular and the public in general on issues relating to reef resources management, such as the dangers of overfishing, advantages of sustainable resource use, the impacts of coral mining and the benefits of using alternatives to coral rock for construction. Mechanisms for increasing awareness include: the use of print media (local news sheets as well as national newspapers). The use of radio (atoll based FM radio if/when available, as well as the national Voice of Maldives); and the development of links between environmental clubs/school groups in Malé and in the atolls.

· Develop a plan of phasing out coral mining in the current National Development Plan, working backward from a total ban in 2005 AD

· Give priority to enforcing existing laws and regulations concerning reef fisheries and other reef resources more effectively.

· Promote reef resources management on an atoll scale. Recognizing that people of one atoll would have little or no incentive to conserve "their" reef resources if there was open access to people of all atolls, it is recommended that there be some regulation, requiring fishermen from all atolls to conform to the management measures in place in any atoll.

· Establish a network of marine protected areas, designed to act as harvest refugia and to protect breeding stocks and biodiversity, covering approximately 20% of the total atoll area and including representative samples of all major habitats.

Document existing local knowledge of marine resources and management systems, in order to provide a sound foundation for IRRM.


The Maldivian fishery has traditionally concentrated on oceanic tunas, so reef resources were barely exploited until fairly recently. In recent years a number of export-oriented fisheries have developed, including those for beche-de-mer, giant clam, aquarium fish and live grouper. These commercial reef fisheries are in most cases based on limited natural stocks, and can be rapidly over-exploited if the fisheries are not properly managed. Poor management also leads to conflicts among resource users.


· Develop a collaborative IRRM strategy for the sustainable and equitable utilization of reef fishery resources.

· Improve coordination and cooperation among exporters, Customs, Ministry of Trade and Industries, Ministry and Fisheries and Agriculture, Ministry of Atolls Administration, NGO's and other relevant bodies in managing and enforcing regulations of fisheries.

· Increase awareness of the fishing community in particular and the public in general on reef fishery management issues.

Recommendations for IRRM

Recommendations for monitoring and research

· Estimate potential fishery yield targets for different fisheries for each atoll.

· Compile information available from other parts of the world on reef resources stock assessment and other biological studies, in order to make the IRRM process more cost effective.

· Identify potential fishery targets, carry out market research on them, and disseminate the resulting information to the public.

· Engage suitable fishermen on targeted islands to monitor reef fisheries using logbooks. Species composition data, size frequency data, and also catch and effort data should be collected.

· Conduct short research projects to obtain information on specific topics as required.

· Establish a fisheries unit within Customs, in order to monitor fisheries exports more effectively. Provide training in fisheries product monitoring to Customs in order to facilitate this process.

· Develop a mechanism for monitoring the activities of foreign vessels entering the country to buy or load live fish.

· Set size limits on commercially important species.

Recommendations for management

· Concentrate initial community based monitoring and management activities on the grouper fishery in view of its current importance.

· Take strong action to prevent poisonous fishing materials, such as the use of cyanide.

· Enforce the existing regulation requiring the registering of any new fishery with the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, before fishing activity commences.

· Impose size limits on commercially important species.

· Ban fishing during breeding season where appropriate (e.g. on spawning aggregations of groupers).

· Control fisheries in each atoll by limiting the catch and/or fishing effort.

· Enforce existing regulations concerning foreign vessels fishing in territorial waters (e.g. grouper).

· Impose a moratorium on fisheries that are severely overfished in order to allow stocks to recover (eg. sea cucumber).

· Ban the use of small mesh in gillnets in view of the damage they can do to reef resources.

· Prohibit the use of compressed air diving (both SCUBA and surface supply) for commercial fishing, except in cases where diving is the only practical method of fishing (e.g. aquarium fish).


The livebait fishery is the reef-related component of the important tuna fishery. The livebait fishery has been in existence for hundreds of years, and it remains the most important reef fishery. The scale of the livebait fishery has increased greatly in recent years, leading to concern about the sustainability of fishing on some livebait stocks. Tuna fishermen have traditional rights to fish for livebait on any reef in the country. Conflicts of interest have occurred between livebait fishermen and other, non-traditional, reef resource users.


· Increase public awareness about management issues associated with the livebait fishery.

· Increase coordination among the responsible authorities to ensure transfer of timely information about the fishery, and prompt management action when required.

· Increase awareness among school children as a long term objective for proper management of the fishery

· Ensure that, if scuba diving for baitfishing is to be allowed, then fishermen are adequately trained to enable them to dive and to work underwater safely.

Recommendations for IRRM

Recommendations for monitoring and research

· Carry out research in order to assess the status of livebait fish stocks and their sustainable yields. This research should incorporate local knowledge in addition to appropriate scientific studies.

· Initiate a baitfishery data collection system

Recommendations for management

· Establish better mechanisms for enforcing laws and regulations.

· Prepare fishery information packages for school teachers.

· Increase coordination between VOM and MOFA to ensure the timely transfer of information to be distributed through VOM to the fisherfolk.

· Introduce legislation to ban the use of destructive livebait collecting methods, especially the use of sticks and heavy chains/weights, to drive livebait out of their refuges by breaking corals.

· Establish a regulatory body to establish minimum safety and training standards for diving fishermen, if SCUBA diving for baitfish collection or other fisheries is allowed.


Coral mining is a traditional activity in the Maldives that supplies the only indigenous rock for construction. In the past coral mining was a small-scale and sustainable activity. However, demand has increased greatly in the last couple of decades and coral mining at current levels is no longer sustainable. Associated activities include sand mining, dredging, reclamation and the building of coastal structures. All of these activities lead to reef degradation, adverse effects on fisheries and increased erosion.


· Phase out coral mining, and to the extent possible other related activities, since they are highly destructive of the reef and island environment.

· Identify measures to achieve preservation of coral reefs through research and management.

· Identify changes taking place in the reef environment.

· Identify economic, institutional and cultural mechanisms that can be implemented to make alternatives to coral rock attractive throughout the country.

· Develop public awareness on the adverse impacts of coral mining and the benefits of use of alternative building materials.

Recommendations for IRRM

Recommendations for monitoring and research

· Initiate and develop a participatory reef monitoring program involving Island and Atoll Development Committees, Women's Committees, NGOs and other stakeholders.

· Monitor coral reefs in order to identify changes taking place in the reef environment, and where appropriate to suggest remedial action.

Recommendations for management

· Establish and implement mechanisms to make alternatives to coral rock socially acceptable in the country and encourage the use of alternatives in maritime structures.

· Develop a plan for phasing out coral mining in the context of the current national development plan, working backwards from a total ban by 2005 AD.

· Develop and conduct training courses in the making of concrete blocks, as an alternative to coral rock for construction.

· Develop criteria and procedures for definition of boundaries for house reefs of tourist and inhabited islands and zones designated for different uses.

· Develop atoll area management plans based on community participation and cooperation.

· Minimize incidence and impacts of dredging and reclamation.


While the very existence of the Maldives is based on coral reefs there are three main economic activities directly involved in reef resource utilization: fisheries, coral mining and tourism. Although some tourist activities can impact reefs adversely (e.g. reef walking, sewage disposal, dredging) the tourist industry often uses reef resources in a non-extractive manner (e.g. diving, snorkeling). In contrast, fisheries are entirely extractive. These contrasting patterns of resource utilization can give rise to user conflicts. In addition coral mining can adversely affect both tourism and fisheries. The Integrated Reef Resources Management program aims to find ways in which extractive and non-extractive resource users can coexist in harmony.

Issues within the tourism sector:

· Heavy demand by tourists for reef souvenirs.

· Tourists impact the reef flat by walking during low tide on the reef flat, and by novices in diving grabbing at coral in strong currents.

· Tourists impact fish ecology and behavior by feeding fish.

· The tourism lifestyle creates heavy amounts of waste that must find oulets of disposal.

· Reclamation and destruction of reef areas by dredging and other land-use changes from resort development.

Issues between the tourism/fisheries sectors:

· Bait fishing areas near resorts - these inhibit some tourists

· Multi-use conflict with aquarium fishing.

· Mining impacts tourism and fisheries, through coastal erosion and destruction of fish habitats.

· No clear definition of reef boundaries exists for those islands that are developed for both tourism and industry.

· Although some dive sites are established, additional reefs are used for both diving and fishing.


· Resolve user conflicts in a balanced and equitable manner.
· Build on the positive influence of tourism to protect the reef resources.

Recommendations for IRRM

Recommendations for research and monitoring

· Provide incentives for the tourism industry to support marine related research relevant to them and education programs for both locals and visitors.

· Compile and integrate results of research related to management of marine resources.

Recommendations for management

· Determine limits for expansion of number of tourism islands based on criteria which include impacts, logistics, costs, benefits to tourist industry and other sectors of society.

· Develop a network of marine protected areas.

· Minimize incidence and impacts of dredging and develop strategies to deal with wastes.

· Develop atoll area management plans based on community participation.

· Develop criteria and procedures to define boundaries of house reefs of tourist islands and zones designated for different uses.

· Develop a licensing system for tourism and fisheries based on personal transferable licenses. Licenses should be issued on the basis of carrying capacity of both industries.




Resources are vital to a country like the Maldives. The very livelihood of Maldives depends on its reef resources. The two main income generating industries (tourism and fisheries) are heavily dependent on the reef environment. Outside all this the reef acts as the main barrier, protecting low lying islands from the dangers of the sea that surrounds it.

Coral Mining

Though coral from our fragile reefs provides the main building blocks for our construction industry, builders should be discouraged from using coral for construction. Alternate materials like imported sand and granite can be made available at a cheaper price by the government. These could be made more readily available to all the islands throughout the Maldives. Courses on making cement bricks could be conducted by the construction ministry both in the island and in Malé. Cement bricks which could be used as an alternative for coral during construction.

Tuna Fishery

Tuna is the main source of protein for all Maldivians. A large percentage of our tuna is exported, earning much-needed foreign exchange for the country.

Though at present there is no indication that the tuna stocks in Maldivian waters are being overfished, it is of great importance that Maldivians initiate a research project to estimate the existing stock and determine a MSY value for this fishery.

Sea Birds

Sea birds play an important role in locating fishing grounds. Many of these birds are being caught by fishermen and kept in their homes as pets. Some of these birds are now seen very rarely.

The government should impose a total ban on the capture of sea birds and should take strong action to prevent destruction of their habitats.

Bait Fishery

The live bait fishery is of great importance for the pole and line fishery. Precautions must be taken by the government to protect these bait fishing grounds. Laws and regulations should be enforced to ensure that little or no damage is done to the reef when taking bait.

Permanent anchors at these sites should minimize the damage done by anchoring boats. A total ban on coral mining in these areas will ensure that the habitat is little affected by human interaction.

Fishermen should be made aware of existing problems in catching live baitfish. They should be encouraged not to exceed a fixed amount of baitfish capture even when bait is abundant. They should also be advised to put the excess bait back on to a reef and not into the open ocean.

Specialized boats for bait fishing can be introduced to meet the ever increasing demand for baitfish. These vessels could then provide the needed live baitfish for pole and line fishermen.

Aquarium Fishery

Capture of aquarium fish is another developing fishery that needs to be expanded. Better markets for exporting aquarium fish need to be looked at, and laws and regulations should be made to ensure the sustainable development of this fishery.


Introduction of a tax on mined coral


- about the destruction of coral reefs by human impact.


- that coral mining causes mass destruction of coral reefs.


- that a law is already implemented, banning coral mining on house reefs.


- the government to take firm actions against destruction of coral reefs.


- to levy a higher tax on mined coral.

Ways of Taxation

- to have a fixed price for the first 100 cubic feet.

- double the price for the second 100 cubic feet and triple the price for the next 100 cubic feet and so on.

- permission for mining should be granted by the MPHRE.

Introduction of school-based environment groups to deal with environmental problems in the islands.


- about the destruction of coral reefs by human impact.


- that dumping of cans and other non-biodegradable materials on to the reef destroys the reefs, and that school-based environment groups can play a significant role in protecting the environment.


- that already in most islands, sites are allocated for dumping garbage on the island.


- the government to take firm action against those who dump garbage outside allocated sites.

- the government to introduce facilities for collecting cans and plastics throughout the Maldives.


- to introduce machines to incinerate the collected cans and plastics.

Suggested ways to carry out the task

- cans and plastics may be collected by students from the environment club.

- once a large amount of cans and plastics are collected, they can be taken to the island where they can be incinerated.

- a small price may be paid for each kilo of can or plastics, to encourage the students.

Creating awareness


- that gradual long-term destruction of coral reefs is due to the lack of knowledge on coral reefs.


- that there are already programmes to create awareness among the public on ways in which people interact with the environment.


- the government to expand these existing programmes.


- to use media to create awareness.

- to send qualified environment field officers to various islands to create awareness among the island communities.

- to organise lectures for students.


Respective delegates, observers and ladies and gentlemen. Good morning. It is a great privilege for me to speak on behalf of our group. We discussed the role that we could play in educating the community in reef resource management.

Information on coral reefs and its resources is available only to students of secondary school, through a subject called Fisheries Science. In most island schools, very few students reach the level of secondary education. And many island schools do not offer secondary education at all. As a result, most students completing studies at island schools hardly know anything about the coral reef and its vulnerability. We as students strongly feel that Fisheries Science should be introduced to students at a lower level in the existing curriculum. May be at the primary or middle school level.

I also note that although the existing Fisheries Science curriculum has a practical component in it, it is hardly practised. Though Fisheries Science curriculum strongly encourages active learning, many of the practical activities indicated in the Fisheries Science Activity workbooks are not carried out by the teachers.

We on behalf of all Fisheries Science students recommend that the government take appropriate steps to ensure that more activities be carried out by the Fisheries Science teachers. I'm sure this will encourage more students to take Fisheries Science, thus creating more awareness among the students about the reefs.

We would also like to note that all teachers of Fisheries Science are expatriates. These expatriates have very little practical experience on coral reefs. This may be why they are so reluctant to take the students out to the reef.

Therefore we strongly suggest to the responsible government authorities to train Maldivians to teach Fisheries Science at the schools.

Field trips to observe coral reefs could be organised at least once a year by the appropriate ministries for the students of both Malé schools and island schools.

Lectures for graduates should be organised to provide information on career opportunities relevant to coral reefs.

Lectures, video shows and slide shows could be organised by various departments to create awareness among students about the fragile environment that surrounds us.

Radio programmes and documentaries shown on the National TV can provide a lot of information to the public.

In addition, debates and quizzes could be organised among schools by various departments regarding the coral reefs environment.

Poster competitions could be organised nationwide. The best 10 posters could be mass produced and distributed throughout the country.

Environment clubs in schools could be given the responsibility of designing leaflets which could be mass produced and distributed. Schools could take turns in designing leaflets.

Huge billboards could be put up at different locations of the island. Again, students from various schools could help paint these boards.

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