Work Experience Placement with the Maldives Grouper Fishery and Conservation Project
Blue Marine Foundation, UK, in partnership with Marine Research Center, Six Senses Laamu and Laamu Atoll Council
Duration: 10 days (17 July 2017 – 17 July 2017)
Location: Vaavu Atoll, based in Thinadhoo.
Due to high demand and market prices, the Maldives grouper fishery has escalated since the 1980s, spreading throughout the country, with the export market being the main driving force for the fishery. A recent study in 2011 revealed that grouper stocks are declining and smaller sized fish are being taken. Catch data for the ten most commonly exploited species of groupers show that, 70% of individuals are being taken prior to reaching maturity. Trends suggest that stocks of species targeted for the live trade are declining with a corresponding increase in catch per unit effort. The declining trend for live exports and the increasing level of fresh chilled exports has resulted in both fishermen and exporters targeting a wider range of grouper species.
A recent study to identify reef fish spawning aggregations revealed that 88% of Maldivian grouper fishers were aware of the phenomenon of spawning aggregations and were able to initially identify 175 sites where groupers aggregate for spawning. To date, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MOFA) has designated five spawning aggregation sites as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Maldives. However, there is a lack of capacity to properly enforce the MPA regulations in situ. Marine reserves can be an effective tool for protecting grouper spawning aggregation sites if they are properly enforced.
There is a lack of information on grouper fisheries and grouper populations on Laamu Atoll. Overfishing of groupers has been reported on many atolls across the Maldives and was inferred by research studies on Laamu more than 15 years ago.
This project will address a number of areas with regard to the grouper fishery, including one of the main causes of overexploitation, by gathering information on the location of grouper spawning aggregation sites in Laamu atoll. Detailed knowledge of these sites for selected species can then be used by MOFA to begin the process of protecting these sites from fishing and increase the number of grouper MPAs designated in the Maldives. Collecting historical and current information on grouper fishing practises will provide detailed knowledge on the status of the fishery for the atoll. Discussions with grouper fishermen, fish cage owners and island councils will also increase environmental awareness of the importance of these sites for grouper populations on Laamu atoll. The rationale for selecting spawning aggregation site protection is that preventing overfishing at these sites will help to ensure that grouper populations do not decline further by enabling spawning and natural replenishment of groupers on Laamu.
The project is implemented by a project team based in Six Senses Laamu- a Project Coordinator from Blue Marine Foundation and a Research Assistant seconded to Marine Research Center.
The Grouper Fishery and Conservation Project is working towards improving the sustainability of the grouper fishery in Maldives by carrying out the following 4 main activities:
Interviews with grouper fishermen in Laamu Atoll
Dive surveys at grouper spawning aggregation sites
Length maturity sampling assessments for 4 different species of groupers
Environmental and Educational Awareness sessions
Field trip summary:
The goal of this field trip to Vaavu Atoll is to collect data which will contribute towards identifying length-maturity relationships for four grouper species:
Brown marbled grouper (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus)
Camouflage grouper (Epinephelus polyphekadion)
Black saddled grouper (Plectropomus laevis)
Square tailed grouper (Plectropomus areolatus)
Size at maturity relationships identified will be recommended to the government for National Policy.
Under the overall supervision of the project team, interns will be expected to assist with:
• Transport of groupers from the holding cage to the sampling site
• Basic cleaning duties of work space
• Data recording
• Handling of groupers
• Fish dissection
• Gonad removal and analysis
• Otolith removal and analysis
NB: Students are not required to have previous work experience and will be trained on site.
• The project will cover the cost of return travel from Male’ to Vaavu Atoll, accommodation and meals.
• All travel will be done together with a member of the project team.
• A performance evaluation will be done at the end of the internship and a reference letter will be issued to the intern.
Please send your application to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11 July 2017. Please include in your application the following details:
– A brief introduction of yourself and your interest in this position
– Reference by a member of staff at Maldives National University