The government was recently forced to revoke its restriction on buying catch from Maldivian fishermen, showing that fishing is truly the lifeblood of the country.
Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) began regulating the purchase of fish last year, to the dismay of fishermen. But the recent fishing boom in the southern atolls has compelled MIFCO to change its policy.
Fishermen in the south reported that things began improving a week ago, with over 700 tonnes of fish caught on Saturday alone.
MIFCO COO Ramzee Aboobakur said 400 tonnes of fish were weighed in Kooddoo island on Saturday and that MIFCO’s boats in the region had also caught around 300 tonnes of fish. This caused difficulties and fishermen from a dozen fishing boats had to wait overnight in MIFCO’s plant in Kooddoo to weigh their catch. One fisherman accused authorities of playing favorites by accepting fishermen with pro-government leanings more fish per ton. Another fishing vessel from Gan dumped its catch after it became rotten.
Meanwhile, fishermen protested in Thinadhoo after the government refused to distribute ice at the state-run ice plant in the island. One protestor claimed that the ice plant chief said he received ‘orders from above’ to do so. But MIFCO began distributing ice after the protest and has since stated that they have increased the capacity of ice plants in the south by keeping them open 24 hours a day.
MIFCO has since adjusted to the remarkable improvement in fishing in the southern atolls and has decided to buy more than the set amount of fish from the southern atolls.
In a press release, MIFCO said that it has sent a ship to increase the capacity of weighing in the south, and is searching for a carrier ship to increase capacity in GA Kooddoo.
MIFCO also said it has increased buying by 400 to 720 tonnes, fish freezing capacity by 216 to 612 tonnes, and ice generation by 355 to 630 tonnes since 2014.
Fishing is the second main industry in the Maldives after tourism and employees half the Maldivian workforce. Factors such as mechanised and motorised boats, and improvements in infrastructure for collecting and handling catch have lead to further development in the industry.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom once said "fishing is the lifeblood of our nation, it is inborn. From the soil on which we live, to the sea around us, it remains an integral part of our existence. Fishing, and our country and its people, are one and shall remain inseparable forever." Recent turn of events have shown that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s words remain true today.