Maldives provides a "good guy" model for the region

HERE IS a country that can proudly boast that it has no industrial pollution. Though mainly dependent on fisheries and tourism, land reclamation, coral and sand mining and sewage dumping is posing nascent problems in Maldives. But Hassan Shakeel of the ministry of fisheries and agriculture says, "These activities have a negligible effect on the open sea, the grounds for commercial fishing."

The only threat to fisheries in Maldives is from over-exploitation. The government stopped issuing export licenses for fishing for giant clams to prevent serious exhaustion of stock and localised extinction of clams. Similarly, cucumber fishing, which increased from 2 million tonnes in 1986 to 745 million tonnes in 1990, is also fast approaching non-sustainability.

However, tuna is still not listed as a threatened resource even though it is the country's most intensively fished resource. The tuna catch also undergoes regular, quality control checks for mercury concentration.

Shakeel disclosed the Maldives government is developing a coastal zone management plan in a bid to avoid the problems that its neighbours in the Bay of Bengal region have had to face.