The Maldives is a nation of over one thousand small coral islands spread over ninety thousand square kilometers in the Western Indian Ocean. It is not surprising that this small island nation is dependent on its marine and coastal resources for its livelihood. Tourism and Fisheries are the two highest foreign exchange earners, and are equally dependent on the high environmental quality of the reef and marine resources. While the tourism industry has grown in the last decades to become the highest foreign exchange earner, fisheries and fisheries-related industries have traditionally provided the primary source of employment and protein in the Maldives, especially to the rural or island population. In addition to being dependent on the same resource, these two foreign exchange earners are also economically interdependent. Part of the experience of being a tourist in the Maldives is enjoying the fresh fish products, and the fisherfolk have benefited from this additional market primarily for reef fish.
Fisheries in the Maldives has historically targeted the pelagic tuna resources and the livebait fishery. However, since the early 1980's, the Maldives has seen the emergence of new fisheries targeting reef species. These fisheries can be largely grouped into the export-oriented grouper fishery, the marine aquarium fish trade, the beche-de-mer fishery and the giant clam fishery. A high export market demand coupled with a small resource base and lack of management measures has created severe pressure on these fisheries. As part of the solution, the Government of the Maldives is developing mariculture pilot projects to help offset the intensive effort and catch in the beche-de-mer, grouper and giant clam fisheries.
To respond to these recent changes in the fishery uses of its reef resources, trends in the tourism industry, and concern among the stakeholders of the sustainability of the reef resources, the Government of Maldives has initiated an Integrated Reef Resources Management Programme (IRRM) which will build on the successful results of earlier efforts. In fact, the IRRM has been established from the recommendations following the unusual storm-surge incidence of 1987.
Through the ODA/TCO Programme, the Government of Maldives has conducted research on tuna as well as reef degradation and its impact on the reef fishery. Recommendations made for the establishment of a Coral Reef Research Unit have been assisted by the ICOD/Canada. Additional funding for Reef monitoring, COT Awareness campaign, One Day Seminars with the Tourist Industry and the concerned government departments, as well as training assistance has been sought from the World Bank, ODA, ICOD, and SEAFDEC.
Through assistance from the Scandinavian Countries, UNDP, FAO/BOBP, Government of Japan, Australia and India, an Extension Programme was conducted during the period 1989 - 1993. This Extension programme consisted of a series of consultations, workshops, seminars and training programmes in Vaavu and Meemu Atolls. Two substantive outcomes of this programme include a Reef Resources Management Handbook designed to be used by everyone with an interest in living marine resources, from tourists and fisherfolks, to research scientists, and the printed booklet "Our Living Reefs" that has been used by the community schools within the project area.
The Maldives has a strong international commitment relating to coastal and marine resources management in Agenda 21. The Maldives is on the forefront of implementing recommendations under Agenda 21, Chapter 17, which calls for the development of an integrated approach to the management of coastal and marine resources with particular reference to the protection of coral reefs as areas of high biodiversity and global importance.
The IRRM programme will develop a management model for the Vaavu, Meemu, Faafu and Dhaalu Atolls, using a participatory approach with the fisherfolk to improve the welfare of the fisherfolk communities and the sustainability of the reef fishery resources. A more holistic approach to reef management which combines fisherfolk knowledge with the results of scientific characterisation of the reef fisheries resources, and the expertise and input of all Ministries with jurisdiction in the areas impacting the reef resources, will ensure that management solutions will be comprehensive and sustainable.
An integrated approach which considers the cultural and scientific aspects of management will open doors to our understanding of coral ecosystems and the fisherfolk communities that depend on them. Activities conducted by the Marine Research Section (MRS) in the targeted Atolls have prepared the communities for participation in the IRRM Programme. These earlier efforts have also helped to identify issue areas for the management of the resources.
Issue Areas for Management
Issue areas for management in the IRRM are at once unique to the Maldives and will have implications to other countries for management of relatively untapped but fragile reef ecosystems. This present phase (1994 - 1998) programme has identified Five Key Issues:
1. Reef Fish Fishery: Main area of concern will be export-oriented Grouper and Marine Aquarium Fish Trade.
2. Baitfishery for Tuna pole and line Fishery: Reef related component of the tuna fishery.
3. Coral Mining: Main areas will include impacts due to coral and sand mining; dredging as well as reclamation.
4. Tourism/Fishery Interactions: Mainly due to the fact that this is an issue in the project area. In addition, IRRM will observe the interactions among interests within each sector, before analysing the interactions between sectors.
5. Comprehensive Management of the Resources: Mainly concerned with the legal and institutional aspects of IRRMP.
To identify a suitable IRRM Strategy in the overall Atolls (Administration) National Development Programme; at the same time carry out intensive monitoring as well as in-house training programmes to develop an IRRM Programme for the project area.
To develop an IRRM Policy Guideline for all the Administrative Atolls by the year 2000.
· Obtain a common understanding and agreement among participants of the general objectives and vision of the IRRM Programme and explore and develop approaches for implementing the Programme.
· Share scientific and socio-economic information currently developed on the five issue areas, and develop draft approaches for their assessment and application to the IRRM decision making process.
· Consensus-building on the general objectives and vision of the IRRM Programme, and recommendations for strategy options for IRRM implementation.
· Proceedings published in English and Dhivehi.
The workshop will be organised around the identified issue areas as discussed above, and will serve as a forum to apply the perspective and experience from a variety of disciplines to these issue areas to improve understanding of these issues and review alternative options for management. Participants are expected to number approximately one hundred with the plenary session open for observers. Morning sessions will be for the presentation of resource papers at the plenary, while the afternoon sessions will be limited to the invited delegates, divided into five working groups.
The first day of the Workshop will focus on the status of the reef resources largely from a scientific perspective.
The second day will apply the science and issue identification to explore potential institutional frameworks for information and dissemination from the perspective of steps already accomplished in the Maldives and other countries.
The third day will discuss management approaches.
The fourth day will give the international experts an opportunity to visit Tourist Resort installations and Fishing villages, while the Secretariat prepares the working documents as well as the working group recommendations to facilitate concluding discussions on the final day.
The final day of the Workshop will be used to consolidate the discussions and to arrive at recommendations for IRRM.
Who Will Attend:
Delegates and Observers will include representatives from all fisheries, tourism and reef related industry professions and associated groups interested in the sustainable reef resources development and management within the Private and the Public Sectors.
Invited International Experts:
Dr. R. E. Johannes
R. E. Johannes Pty Ltd.
8 Tyndall Court
Dr. Terry Done
Australian Institute of Marine Sciences
PMB 3 Townsville
Dr. Alasdair J. Edwards
Centre for Tropical Coastal Management Studies
Department of Marine Sciences and Coastal Management
University of Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU
Dr. Alan T White
Coastal Resources Management Project
No. 1 Gower Street
For further information contact:
Director General of Fisheries and Agriculture, Ghazee Building, Malé 20-05 Tel: 322625, Cable: Fisheries Telex: 77033 Facsimile: (960) 326558