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Darwin Reef Fish Project

Coral reef fish of the Maldives are an invaluable resource for fisheries and tourism. They also make a big contribution to the nation's biodiversity and play a vital role in keeping the reef ecosystem healthy. Over 70 species are used in the grouper and reef fish fishery, and demand is escalating as the tourism sector expands. The grouper fishery is particularly important, with fish being exported live and chilled for overseas markets, as well as being sold freshly-caught for local markets. In addition, at least 120 species are collected and exported for the aquarium trade. These fisheries need to be managed to make sure they are not putting additional strain on coral reefs that are also under stress from global climate change.

Maldives reef fish and captured fish

MCS is collaborating with the Marine Research Centre in the Maldives on a 4-year programme (2009-2013) called Managing Coral Reef Fisheries for Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Economic Benefits - better known as the Darwin Reef Fish Project. Its aim is to ensure the fisheries are sustainable and will bring maximum benefits to local communities, without damaging the reef ecosystem or causing fish populations to decline. The project is funded through the Darwin Initiative (Defra, UK) and supported by the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources, Maldives.

We are currently working with fishermen, government agencies and the tourist sector to collect data on reef fish populations, fisheries and markets. A number of monitoring programmes are underway, including underwater surveys and fishery surveys. We are also working with fishermen on the introduction of daily fishing logbooks to record catch and effort. A large amount of information is being generated from all these surveys and, once this has been analysed,  the results will be used in the development of management plans for each of the fisheries.

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