Tuna, caught in small-scale, one-by-one fisheries play a vital role in the lives of many people – providing an essential source of food and supporting the livelihoods of coastal communities all over the world. At the same time, growing consumer awareness of the social and environmental benefits associated with such fisheries continues to drive the global demand for these products to new levels.
While it’s true that this backdrop provides one-by-one fishers, communities and companies with a genuine opportunity to elevate their operations and establish a sustainable and equitable future, an equally important aspect of meeting market demand is providing tuna of the highest possible quality.
There are a number of means by which this might be achieved, but one of the most surefire ways to meet international standards for product quality as well as sustainability and food safety, is for stakeholders to share knowledge and experiences with each other.
Happy crew and visitors aboard the TS-Line, locally made in the Maldives
By their nature, one-by-one tuna fisheries are often found in geographically remote locations. Fortunately that also provides opportunities to ‘follow the fish’ and learn from similar types of operations. Geographically, more than 5,500 miles separate St Helena and the Maldives. However, ties between the two one-by-one fisheries are now stronger than ever before following a recent exchange visit, which saw a delegation from the South Atlantic island travel to the Indian Ocean to see first-hand how their Maldivian counterparts fish and process their tuna. The delegation was generously hosted by Maldivian tuna processing company and IPNLF Member, Ensis Fisheries PVT Ltd.
Over the course of four busy days, the St Helena delegation immersed themselves in the world of Maldivian one-by-one tuna. They were accompanied by IPNLF’s Zacari Edwards (Socio Economic Manager), Martin Purves (Managing Director) and Julie Thomas (Project Manager, St Helena). Thanks to excellent local coordination and support from IPNLF’s Fisheries Research Officers Ibrahim Saneeh and Ibrahim Nadheeh, the team observed the specialised fishing and onboard handling techniques which contributes to the high value attained by Maldivian tuna in the marketplace. In addition to joining a handline fishing trip targeting yellowfin, the Saints, as people from St Helena are affectionately known, toured processing facilities, and also met with the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) to learn more about the national standards for tuna products.
While fisheries are complex, each with very unique attributes and challenges, these invaluable knowledge exchanges continue to demonstrate that even the most experienced people can learn something new and valuable. It also reaffirmed IPNLF’s view that such collaborations are an ideal pathway to improving the position of one-by-one tuna products in the marketplace.
As well as strengthening IPNLF’s already strong relationship with the St Helena and Maldivian one-by-one tuna sectors, the capacity exchange provided Zac and Martin with further hands-on experience out on the water with local fishers.
Fulfilling our mission to help bridge the gap between what consumer markets want and what can be supplied, requires a hands-on approach at every level, and nowhere more so than at the grassroots fisher and local fishing community level – learning what new challenges need to be overcome. It’s there that IPNLF’s work often has the greatest impact. Because of this, the team spends a lot of time in the field listening, engaging, and helping to come up with solutions.
The processing and exporting sectors play a vital role in connecting the Maldives one-by-one tuna fisheries to global markets. A key element of IPNLF’s trip was the signing of an important MoU with the Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association (MSPEA).
As well as representing a number of the major Maldivian tuna processing companies, MSPEA is also the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certificate holder for the nation’s pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishery. As such, it provides the financial mechanisms to maintain the certificate in the long-term.
Moving forward, the IPNLF-MSPEA collaboration will establish a stronger commitment to support the local tuna sector, making sure that this island nation can remain at the forefront of the global one-by-one supply.