The Maldives Resilient Reefs project, on Friday, revealed that the #FishForTomorrow campaign secured public support for the protection of giant grouper as well as all species of parrotfish in Maldives.
While over 27,000 people, representing more than five percent of the population, responded to the campaign’s online polls, 70 percent of respondents expressed support for legally protecting giant grouper and parrotfish.
Furthermore, 78 percent of the respondents committed to releasing juvenile groupers or snappers if they caught one and 85 percent said they would release berried lobsters in accordance with the law. Additionally, 78 percent also stated that #FishForTomorrow improved their understanding of reef marine life,
Emphasizing the importance of parrotfish, Riyaz Jauharee from Maldives Resilient Reefs stated "Parrotfish are one of the most important groups of fish on coral reefs. Overfishing of them has devastated reefs in many countries and those reefs have never fully recovered. The Maldives must act now and ban fishing of Parrotfish before it is too late".
#FishForTomorrow was initiated in response to the emergence of photographs depicting illegal capture of the nationally protected giant clam as well as unsustainable fishing of other key species including parrotfish.
Launched on June 8 to coincide with World Oceans Day 2020, the campaign aimed to educate Maldivian people concerning the biology of vulnerable reef species as well as increasing awareness on the dangers of overfishing and the importance of carefully managing fish populations.
Maldives Resilient Reefs used interesting facts about local fish species, such as "Red snappers can live up to 55 years - longer than a bear!", to positively shift perceptions about fish.
Approximately 40,000 people, or nearly 10 percent of the Maldivian population, visited the website during the four-week campaign and played the “higher or lower” game in which players were required to answer questions like “Which of these species can you legally fish?”.
The campaign also inspired a viral trend of local fishermen posting Instagram stories of themselves releasing juvenile groupers and snappers.
“We are already experiencing climate change impacts such as unprecedented storm surges and mass coral bleaching on a non-El-Nino year. We need to prioritize the management of reef fish populations so that they could provide the essential ecological functions for us to be able to live on these islands safely", stated Maldives Project Manager Shaha Hashim.
#FishForTomorrow was supported by a variety of 'reef hero' advocates and influencers including the band Detune as well as Ahmed Saeed (Gahaa), Riyaz Jauharee and Shaziya Saeed (Saaxu).
Ahmed Saeed said "The campaign and its messages served as an eye-opener and tickled our conscience, certainly. I believe this probably is the first educational campaign about vulnerable reef fish in the Maldives. I consider it a great success and wish to thank the Maldives Resilient Reefs team for their efforts to educate the public and make people aware of sustainable fishing which is so crucial to the future of our country".
The Maldives Resilient Reefs project is Blue Marine Foundation’s initiative to restore coral reefs as climate-resilient ecosystems for the benefit of people, the environment and economies.