The fishing industry in The Maldives is a crucial part of the country's history, identity, culture and economy.
Every year, The Maldives celebrates National Fishermen’s Day on 10th December. This day serves as a reminder fishermen are widely respected throughout The Maldives, and that fishing forms a crucial part of the history, culture as well as economy of the country.
Fishing is a vital source of income for the country, and remains one of the primary economic industries, the first being tourism. However, fishing is the original lifeblood of the archipelagic nation with about 30% of the population working in the fishing industry. It is considered as the backbone of The Maldives - fishing was the primary source of income for decades until tourism was introduced.
A tale as old as time...
Fishing in The Maldives dates all the way back to the 14th century. The famous Moroccan world traveler visited this beautiful chain of islands in 1340's and wrote about the unique pole and line fishing practices in The Maldives.
These traditions and techniques have been passed onto several generations until today and due to the sustainability factor of this practise, it is safe to say that the Maldivian ocean stays rich and abundant in marine life. This sustainability of fishing is due to the consistency of the fishermen in upholding the century old tradition of catching the fish one by one, using pole and line method and live bait.
Of course, the ease of technology is used in today’s fishing, as a much younger generation is leading this industry today, though, the techniques used by their forefathers are upheld to the greatest of level.
A vital role in Maldivian cuisine
As you may know already, fish is the main ingredient in Maldivian cuisine - it is a staple in the local diet.
Despite the industry being a male dominated industry, women too, pioneered in this field. Mostly contributing to making thoughtful dishes by fully utilizing all the parts of the fish, Maldivians have a collection of classic fish dishes that dates back decades.
They thrived with their own recipes like Rihaakuru, Garudhiya, Fihunu mas, Kulhi mas, Mas huni and fish curries etc. There are similar dishes all over the world but there is nothing like using fresh tuna caught from the Maldivian seas in these dishes.
Read our detailed blog post about Maldivian Cuisine here.
National Fishermen's Day on 10th December
While almost all the products in The Maldives are imported, tuna products are among the few that Maldivians proudly call their own. It is exported all over the world and enjoyed throughout.
10th December of each year marked as Fishermen’s Day is an important day celebrated in Maldives in efforts to appreciate the hardworking people who contribute to this industry every day. 2022 marks the 42nd National Fishermen’s Day in Maldives and it is to be celebrated in the beautiful island of GDh.Faresmaathodaa this year.
Gdh. Faresmaathoda is an island in Huvadhu Atoll which is known to be the fishing hub of Maldives. The Huvadhu Channel is rich in its biodiversity and visiting here during the days of celebrating Fishermen’s Day will give you opportunities to experience the fishing industry of Maldives. From trying various fishing products to learning about the Maldivian way of fishing, you will not be left bored.
How is fishing sustainable in The Maldives?
In The Maldives, there are tight regulations that are enforced to promote marine conservation, you cannot just fish anywhere and there are hefty penalties imposed on those who break them. Here are some important regulations when it comes to fishing in the Maldives:
Reef fishing is not allowed but if you obtain permission from your Resort, you can fish on their house reef. However, fishing on individual reefs that aren't part of an island, sandbank or any other dry land is allowed.
Fishing from the reefs of an inhabited island by people from another island can only be carried out with approval from that island's Council Office.
Fishing with nets from the reefs of Malé is prohibited
Fishing for sharks and whales is forbidden in The Maldives, as is the use of harpoons. The emphasis is very much on preserving the thousands of aquatic species which all play a part in the diverse ecosystem of the coral reefs.
The use of poison, guns, or explosives for fishing is prohibited
What types of fishing are there?
A fishermen's paradise, the fishing season runs all-year long, though the best months are from November to March (dry season), especially if you're keen to catch some big game. Here are the most common leisure fishing activities:
Shore Fishing: Shore fishing is the easiest way to fish as you don't need to join a Maldives fishing tour to take part in it. In shore fishing, you fish from the beach using traditional line fishing, live bait fishing, beach casting, or fly fishing. There are countless fish species you can catch from the shore including snappers, small grouper, barracuda, and various other reef fishes.
Night Fishing: Fish in the dead of night under a starlit sky, people use bright lights attached to their boats to attract the fish, or hand lines with raw bait. Fish you can expect to catch include, mackerel, snappers, squirrelfish, and jackfish.
Jigging or Popping: An exciting fishing method as it gets you close to the fish you're catching and requires you to handle your fishing rod effectively. This fishing targets similar species as shore fishing with the addition of larger fish like tuna, red bass, and the giant trevally.
Big Game Fishing: You'll join professional fishermen to catch fish like marlin, tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, barracuda and more. A big game fishing package in the Maldives can range from two hours to a full day and can be a very rewarding experience.
There are so many ways to incorporate this traditional Maldivian activity into your holiday for the thrill seeker in you. Sailing on a Mas Dhoani and catching fish the Maldivian way will surely be an experience of a life time. Getting to eat the fish you caught on your own would be a great feeling for sure!