MIFCO tuna cans proudly display the slogan 'Dolphin Friendly.' What it means is that the cans contain tuna caught by pole and line fishing, which does not harm dolphins. That may be true. But is the method 'reef friendly' too?
As we all know pole and line fisheries depends on live bait harvested from reefs. The process is not entirely harmless to the reefs, with delicate corals prone to damage at the hands of careless boat crews. For this reason in fact most tourist resorts strongly resent bait harvesting in their vicinity.
The risk has increased in recent years with the arrival of large fiberglass boats and the increase in fish catch to over 150,000 metric tons per year. Unfortunately despite the advance in technology these boats still depend on live bait harvested from the same reefs.
The sustainability of live bait harvesting is also under question with the increased number of fishing vessels, many of which use strong lights to attract huge quantities of bait. Perhaps we may learn a few lessons from the experience of others. A research report from the neighboring Lakshadweep Islands says, "Islanders still practice traditional pole and line fishing methods for tuna. Additionally, various stresses and the increased harvesting of live bait (for tuna fishing) within lagoons have resulted in the decline of bait fish and additional stress on the reefs."
The question is how long this can go on unregulated before bait species disappear like the sea cucumber did some years back.