In the Laccadive Sea, off the coast of Kerala, India lies a tropical archipelago of atolls and reefs known as Lakshadweep. It is the only coral atoll collection of India, encompassing vast lagoons and pristine coastlines. Its 400,000kms2 of water is rich in pelagic fish, especially tuna.


Landing the pole-and-line caught tuna © Vinod Malayilethu


Each morning, fishers head out to sea to catch tuna one at a time, a responsible practice that is unique in India to the Lakshadweep fishery. Traditionally, fishers in Minicoy, the southernmost islands of the Lakshadweep, practiced fishing in the same way as fishers in the Maldives: fishing in nearshore waters from hand crafted wooden canoes called mas-odis. However, as practices and technology improved, pole-and-line fishing spread northwards throughout the region.


Pole-and-line tuna fishing, Lakshadweep © Vinod Malayilethu


Skipjack tuna is the largest contributor to the fishers catch, making up over 50% of the fish landed. The remainder of the catch consists of yellowfin tuna, kawakawa and other smaller tropical tuna species. Of the total landings ~60% is converted into dried products, such as the local delicacy masmin-brine cooked smoked and sun-dried tuna loins; whilst the remaining ~40% goes for local consumption.


Masmein, dried tuna © Vinod Malayilethu


A huge part of the population depends on the tuna fishery for their livelihoods – as a source of food security, nutrition, employment and income. Over the years the fishing industry has steadily grown from 500 tonnes to 12,000 tonnes, yet it is thought to remain far off the estimated potential indicating scope for further development and a future for these coastal communities.

Many who don’t work out on the water find employment in the local tuna canning factory in Minicoy. It has been producing high-quality products to meet the demand for canned tuna in India and overseas for many years.


Local communities depend on the fishery for nutrition, employment and income © Vinod Malayilethu


Local communities depend on the fishery for nutrition, employment and income © Vinod Malayilethu


IPNLF recently announced a partnership with WWF-India, committing to working collaboratively to support the Lakshadweep pole-and-line tuna fishery. This announcement came after IPNLF welcomed its first India Member Al Badr Seafoods Pvt. Ltd., based in Cochin, Kerala.

With its partners, IPNLF looks forward to working more closely with this fantastic fishery.