The Fisheries Ministry has denied rumours circulating on social media regarding the potential revocation of the moratorium on commercial shark fishing. The moratorium, which includes the sale and export of shark products, has been a contentious issue, sparking debates about conservation, livelihoods, and safety.

An unnamed official from the Fisheries Ministry clarified that Minister Ahmed Shiyam had previously emphasised the need for a comprehensive assessment of shark populations. If the assessment reveals an increase in shark numbers, the government would consider implementing appropriate measures, Minister Shiyam had said. However, the official firmly denied any plans to lift the existing ban on shark fishing.

“Shark fishing is strictly regulated,” the official asserted. “The Ministry has no intention of revising these regulations or reopening shark fishing. There have been no discussions on this matter.”

The impetus for the assessment stems from mounting complaints about sharks disrupting local fishermen’s catch and the alarming rise in shark attacks, some of which have resulted in severe injuries and fatalities. Collaborating with the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI), the Fisheries Ministry aims to evaluate the impact of the ban on shark populations.

Another Fisheries Ministry official said that any decision to revoke the moratorium would hinge solely on the findings of the MMRI-conducted assessment. The MMRI routinely monitors shark populations in Maldivian waters, but the most recent assessment, conducted three years ago, did not reveal a significant increase in shark numbers.

The Fisheries Ministry attributes the surge in shark attacks to human behaviour—specifically, an increase in feeding sharks. The Ministry had also discouraged such practices, citing that feeding sharks is neither permitted nor advisable.

Calls to lift the ban gained momentum after a tragic shark attack incident in Kadhdhoo Island, Laamu Atoll, where an officer from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) lost their life during a routine training exercise.

Before 2010, commercial shark fishing thrived in the Maldives, with lucrative shark fin and oil trade. However, recognising the threats posed to shark populations and the risk of extinction, the government implemented the moratorium 14 years ago.