Gov’t Slash Diesel Prices for Fishers Following Protests

MV+ News Desk | June 13, 2024

The government was scrambling to quell fishers discontent on Wednesday, as fishers and as many as 50 tuna vessels staged a protest on the hulhumale harbour over unpaid bills, fuel prices and new plans to issue long-line fishing permits.

The demonstrators voiced two primary grievances: outstanding payments totalling over MVR 80 million owed to fishers for catches sold to the state-owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Complex (MIFCO), and new plans to issue permits for long-line fishing for yellowfin tuna fishing.


Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam was seen negotiating with fishers, who demanded the new administration fulfill its promises to fishers.

In response to the unrest, the Ministry of Fisheries and Ocean Resources announced late Wednesday night that fishers would be able to purchase subsidised diesel at a rate of MVR 13.98 from petrol sheds in Hulhumale.

Meanwhile, MIFCO said today that it would release MVR 46 million out of the 80 million owed to fishermen for catch from the past month and half.

The protest was led by the Bodu Kanneli Masveringe Union (BKMU) – a trade union representing yellowfin tuna fishers.

Demonstrators gathered near the jetty, holding banners demanding a guaranteed base price for yellowfin tuna, fuel subsidies, and settlement of unpaid bills.

Following negotiations, BKMU announced the cessation of the protest after securing commitments from the government to provide discounted diesel and refrain from issuing long-line fishing permits. However, there has been no official confirmation from the government regarding the suspension of plans for long-line fishing permits.

There has been no confirmation whether the government has agreed to hold back on issuing long line fishing permits.

Last week, BKMU said it had serious concerns about government plans to re-open the long-line fishery for yellowfin tuna.

BKMU had expressed concerns that allowing long-line fishing involving foreign vessels would flood the market with yellowfin tuna, thereby reducing prices for local handline fishers. They demanded that MIFCO establish a minimum purchase price of between MVR 80 and MVR 100 per kilogram for yellowfin tuna before considering any permits for long-line fishing

The union also expressed concern over the high cost of diesel and unpaid bills for fishermen’s catch.

“The government has an extremely important responsibility to sustain the yellowfin tuna industry. We cannot step back an inch in this fight for fisher families to put food on the table and live a dignified life.”

Meanwhile, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party urged the government to consult extensively with fishermen and industry stakeholders before issuing permits for long line fishing.

The MDP pointed out that the long-line fishery had been banned in 2019 due to serious violations of Maldivian laws and regulations governing oceanic and fisheries activities.

They argued that promoting sustainable fishing methods preferred by Maldivian fishers was crucial and warned that allowing foreign vessels to dominate Maldivian waters could jeopardise the country’s fisheries.

MDP called on the government to continue projects to improve MIFCO’s capacity and build cold storage facilities across the country.

It also called on the government to negotiate with the European Union to cut the duty on maldivian tuna exports.

In addition to the contentious issue of long-line fishing permits, the Maldives has seen a significant decline in fish exports, plummeting by a record 48 per cent in the first quarter of 2024. This decline has been attributed to reduced purchases by fish processors following the government’s decision to increase the purchasing price of fish to MVR 25 per kilogram.

The situation remains tense as the government attempts to navigate the demands of the fishing community amidst broader economic challenges in the fisheries sector.