President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has stated that we are currently facing the consequences of high levels of state control on the fisheries sector and neglecting to provide a local business with more opportunities within the sector.
Speaking at the special ceremony held on the occasion of Fishermen's Day, President Solih noted that large-scale changes to the industry came about as the country began exporting fish and installing diesel engines in fishing boats during the 1970s, and at the same time as the country's tourism industry took off. Despite this, the fishing industry became stagnant while the tourism industry grew at an unprecedented rate, said the president.
According to the president, this can be attributed to high levels of state control and neglect from the state to provide adequate opportunities for local businesses to enter into the fisheries sector.
The president claimed that the citizens are currently faced with the economic consequences of these inadequate policies.
The president claimed that there is no doubt that the fishing industry would have developed at the same rate, or perhaps at an even faster rate, than the tourism sector if local businesses were allowed the opportunity to invest in the fishing sector in the past 70 years.
The president went on to refer to the recently opened fish cannery in Hulhumale', as evidence of the benefits of encouraging local investment in the economy. He further reiterated that the fishing sector would have experienced unimaginable growth if investments in the industry had been facilitated at the time its inception.
Moreover, President Solih declared that his administration aims to promote, encourage and facilitate investment in the fishing sector, in addition to resolving the challenges facing the industry, and seeking adequate prices for local products within the international market.
As such, he revealed that at the time of his administration coming into power, line-fishing in the northern atolls had dwindled, fish companies did not have the capacity to purchase fish in season, nor were there any proper systems to acquire the water and oil required during fishing.
The president claimed that the state-owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) did not have the capacity to purchase fish despite the industry experiencing growth in 1990. Likewise, four companies in four selected areas were given exclusive rights to purchase fish, however, this solution did not provide the intended result. The president further disclosed that MIFCO also does not have the capacity to properly measure the weight of fish or fetch appropriate prices for Maldivian tuna.
According to the president, the biggest change his administration intends to bring about to the fishing sector is revoking the exclusive arrangements made with selected companies, in an effort to increase the income while reducing the amount of fish wasted, as well as increasing local investment in the fishing sector.
He further declared that the government's aim is to increase the revenue from the fishing sector while including more shares for Maldivians by specializing in bigeye tuna and line-fishing.
In his concluding remarks, the president stated that the state is responsible for the lack of growth in the fishing sector as no previous government has successfully compiled or enforced adequate fishing policies. As such, he asserted that the Maldives could have been regarded as experts in the field considering the varieties of fishing techniques and long-standing experience of Maldivians.
The president further stated that his administration will expand the fishing sector in collaboration with local businesses.