Malé, Maldives – August 2021

IPNLF-Maldives has been successful in securing funding from the Global Environmental  Facility (GEF) Small Grant Program (SGP) via UNDP (Maldives) to support its work on Livebait Fisheries in the Maldives. The application was made on behalf of the recently established local NGO IPNLF-Maldives.

Livebait is essential for the Maldives’ two major types of one-by-one fisheries, namely pole-and-line and handline tuna fisheries. The Project on “Support for Conservation & Management of Livebait Fishery” started in May 2021with a primary goal to mainstream a series of best practices appropriate for the Livebait fishery in the Maldives.

A key strategy for a pole-and-line fishery would be to minimize onboard baitfish mortality, which contributes to the overall efficiency and reduced environmental impact of the pole-and-line or handline fishing operations. Baitfish will start to die from the time it is first caught and continue to do so until after it is required for fishing operations. Capture, hauling, transfer and handling, baitwell design and environmental conditions all influence bait fish survival. It is well-known that poor survival is due to overcrowding, inadequate holding facilities and rough handling.

Maldivian fishers use at least five different modes of livebait fishing all of which essentially involve attracting and luring a school of baitfish into a square lift net, which is then quickly hauled and transferred into the flooded baitwell. Through our earlier work on Catch and Bycatch Sampling (PLOS One publication and other IPNLF reports), we have observed several key areas where intervention can be made to promote the best practice in the Maldives.

Night bait fishing is one of the most common methods of livebait fishing.  Here a livebait is ‘dry scooped’, a then-common method,  from a crowded net. Photo – Shiham Adam – Jan 2015


The best practices being considered involve improvements to hauling, crowding, transferring and holding aspects. “The most important intervention would be mainstreaming wet-scooping for transferring livebait from haul to the baitwell,” says Ibrahim Nadheeh, Snr. Fisheries Research Officer of IPNLF-Maldives who has been involved in the Catch and Bycatch Sampling Project since 2016. Livebait varieties used in the Maldives fisheries are very delicate so in order to improve survival in captivity it is crucial that they are handled with utmost care. Nadheeh notes that this is a practice that is slowly being adopted in some of the vessels in the south where pole and line fishing is most prevalent.

The specific objectives of the projects are:

  1. To translate into Dhivehi (local language) the relevant chapters on livebait of The Skipper’s Guidebook to Pole-and-line Fishing Best Practice jointly published by IPNLF/ISSF. This would be subsequently printed and distributed to fishers and used in community outreach work.

  2. Provide five short documentaries on a selected best livebait practices,

  3. Produce five highly quality illustrations depicting the salient aspect of the selected best practices,

  4. Use the material to conduct a series of skipper workshops in the southern atolls and

  5. To conduct education and awareness sessions on sustainable utilization of the livebait fishery to secondary school children.

“The project rings true for meeting SDG objectives, in particular, the SDG 14.4, which aims to effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time possible”, says Fathimath Saeedha, UNDP’s National Coordinator of Small Grants Program in the Maldives