Fishing vessel fined MVR700,000 for illegal long line fishing

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has fined a fishing vessel MVR700,00 (US$45,000) for partaking in illegal long line fishing.

A press statement from the ministry stated that the vessel, though licensed to operate in the Maldives, was fishing inside the economic boundaries within which long line fishing is illegal.

The Maldives Fisheries Act states that long line fishing can only be done by license holders 100 miles offshore in areas under the jurisdiction of the Indian Ocean tuna commission.

The fisheries ministry also noted that the offending vessel only sunk the long line to a depth of 36 meters, while the regulation states the long line has to be sunk up to 60 meters.

The ministry said that ensuring that vessels operating in the country are following the due procedure is one of the main priorities of the ministry along with the National Coast Guard.

Fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee has pledged to take stronger measures against illegal fishing than his predecessors.


Indian Naval Ship visits Maldives for joint exercise with MNDF

Indian naval ship ‘Trikand’ is in the Maldives to conduct a five day joint exercise with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) coast guard unit.

According to a statement released by the High Commission of India in the Maldives, the purpose of the exercise is to conduct a joint maritime security patrol of the exclusive economic zone of the Maldives.

Additionally, in a ceremony held on Tuesday, equipment which can be used to maintain the operational and training capacities of the MNDF were gifted to the Maldivian authorities by India.

The equipment was handed over to Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim by High Commissioner of India to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare.


MNDF searching for lost fishing boat

Maldives National Defence Force’s coast guard is searching for a yellow fin tuna fishing boat named “Man’haa” from Miladhoo in Noonu atoll.

The boat carrying around thirteen people on board, was last seen on April 9, fishing near the Kudahuvadhoo area in Dhaalu atoll.

The boat is reported to be 99 feet long, painted navy blue, and with three white decks towards the front of the boat.

The coast guard has requested any information regarding the boat be given through their toll-free number 191, or 3395981.


MNDF unable to recover dead diver’s body

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Coast Guard Commander Colonel Mohamed Ibrahim has said that the coastguard faces huge challenges in retrieving the body of a dead diver from 100 meters underwater.

Mohamed Jameel was reported missing on February 3 while diving near Villingili Island last week.

Speaking on Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s Raaje Miadhu, Mohamed said MNDF divers had discovered Jameel’s fishing net at 70 meters on the third day of the search. The MNDF sighted Jameel’s body at 100 meters the next day.

The MNDF held discussions with expert divers in the Maldives and provided them technical assistance to recover the body however, after diving in the area, divers told MNDF that they were not able to retrieve the body due to the depth.

The MNDF spoke to technical officials of a local ‘Whale Submarine,’ but were unable to recover the body because the currents were too strong for the submarine in the area. Mohamed said there were hanging rocks in the area and it requires a strong hydraulic arm.

According to MNDF, the search team also had foreign diving instructors dive in the area and during the two days they tried visibility was low in the area and currents were too strong.


MNDF appoints commanders to three sections

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has appointed new commanders on January 1 to three sections; Marine Corps, Service Corps and Coast Guard.

Brigadier General Ali Zuhair – who was promoted last November from his previous position as a Colonel – has been appointed as Commander of Marine Corps.
Colonel Mohamed Shareef has replaced Colonel Abdul Raheem as Commander of the Service Corps.

Colonel Mohamed Ibrahim has been appointed Commander of the Coast Guard.

MNDF stated that the changes were brought by Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim with the intent of strengthening the administrative management of the force, local media reports.


Met Office issues weather warning, advises against sea travel for next 24 hours

The Maldives Department of Meteorology (Met Office) has issued a ‘yellow warning’ advising the public against travelling by sea where possible, due to concerns about adverse weather conditions expected across the country for at least the next 24 hours.

The notice, posted on the Met Office website, stated that showers and thunderstorms were expected throughout the day – with average wind speeds of between 30 to 37 miles per hour. Stronger winds are also predicted as between Lhaviyani Atoll and Thaa Atoll, according to authorities.

With the Met Office predicting wind speeds could reach up to 55 miles per hour in parts of the country over the next 24 hours, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has urged anyone considering sea travel to notify the coastguard before embarking on their journey.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem today told Minivan News that authorities had not been notified of any major incidents at sea resulting from the current weather conditions. However, Colonel Raheem urged everyone travelling by boat to take precautions nonetheless.

“We would ask anyone planning on travelling to check conditions with the coast guard as the sea is rough right now,” he added.

The MNDF Coast Guard has also encouraged members of the public to contact its toll-free number by calling 191 to get more information on suitable times for their journey.

Authorities have previously requested that vessels also contact the coastguard when embarking or returning from longer distance journeys during adverse weather conditions.

Local media reported that the MNDF has asked the public to pay attention to ensure cargo ships carry lighter loads under the current conditions, while checking vessels are equipped with sufficient life jackets and drainage facilities.

Met Office spokesperson Hussein Waheed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


Two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks found near Sumatra

Two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks were found early this morning by an oil tanker off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The men, 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll, went missing May 4 aboard the fishing vessel “Azum”. The two crewmen and the 40 foot light-green fishing boat disappeared after departing from Mulak Island in Meemu Atoll en route to Maavah Island in Laamu Atoll.

“An oil tanker registered in the Marshall Islands, travelling to China, found the two men,” Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News today (May 25).

“They were 987 miles away from the Maldives, 300 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia,” said Raheem.

The Coast Guard was contacted early this morning at 6:10am and spoke to Hassan Rasheed, explained Raheem.

“After so many days they are in good condition, a bit weak, but OK. It is very good news, we are happy they have been found in good health,” he added.

Raheem was unsure of the reason for the Azum dhoni to drift so far off course.

“I don’t believe their boat would have had fuel after such a long period of time, there also could have been problems with the engine,” he speculated.

“The oil tanker will be stopping in Singapore on May 28 and we’ll try to get them while it’s docked,” said Raheem.

Jaufar Rasheed, Hassan Rasheed’s brother, told local media that he spoke with Hassan today after he called from a Singaporean number.

“He called and said that they had been picked up by a Singapore boat. He could not say how the other was doing. He managed to say that the dhoni sank and the two were castaways on the sea for a long time. He then asked how his wife and child were doing and started crying. Then the call got disconnected,” Jaufar said.

Lost at sea

Earlier this week, a Maldivian national reported missing May 9 after he departed Fares-Maathoda Island in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll via dinghy was discovered by a foreign vessel 900 miles from Maldivian waters.

The MNDF confirmed Mohamed Falah, a 30 year-old man from Fares-Maathoda had been found in “good condition” by the crew of a foreign vessel travelling to Malaysia.

The MNDF recently “downgraded” search and rescue efforts, by halting aerial operations, to locate four individuals missing at sea.

Although three of the four missing men have now been found, the search continues for Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll.

Sammoon was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4 after being swept away from the island by the current.

“Still we haven’t given up hope, but this person was different because he was not in a vessel,” said Raheem.

“We recovered his surfboard the first day he went missing, so he will not have anything [to stay afloat] like the others,” he noted.

“His chances are less, but you never know. Even after so long, we are still hoping for the best,” he added.

Government authorities continue to advise members of the public to take precautions during sea travel – particularly over long distances – following the “extreme weather” reported across the Maldives this month.

The MNDF Coast Guard can be contacted through the toll free number 191, 339-8898, 339-5981, or via fax 339-1665, with any information regarding Sammoon.


Search for four men lost at sea “downgraded”

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has halted aerial search and rescue operations to locate four individuals who went missing at sea earlier this month.

Search and rescue operations for the four men lost at sea have been downgraded, not terminated, MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News today (May 20).

He explained that although aerial operations have ceased, the reduced search efforts are being continued. An Indian Navy aircraft was previously assisting the MNDF Kurangi Helicopter with aerial search and rescue operations, but has recently departed the Maldives.

“This is the procedure – when a search is prolonged, we change our method and try to find other ways and means to locate the missing persons and vessels,” said Raheem.

“We are coordinating with vessels and islands in the area as well as other agencies. We are trying to search new areas, on land and at sea,” he added.

Raheem explained that inhabited islands and boats traveling near the areas which the men went missing have been informed about the search, while uninhabited islands are also being checked.

“Still we haven’t given up hope, we won’t stand down until we find some information about the missing men,” stated Raheem.

Local rescue efforts led by boats from the missing persons’ respective islands are also being continued, according to local media.

Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll (the north-eastern half of Huvadhoo Atoll), was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4. He allegedly entered the ocean with a surfboard and was swept away by the current.

Kolamaafushi Island Council Vice President Abdulla Atheef told local media that “hope is still alive he will be located. Although it has been 14 days that Shamoon has been missing at sea, we will stop the search only after considering what the relevant authorities inform us.”

Two fisherman also went missing on May 4 aboard the fishing vessel “Azum”. They were identified as 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll. The two crewmen and the 40 foot light-green fishing boat disappeared after departing from Mulak Island in Meemu Atoll en route to Maavah Island in Laamu Atoll.

Additionally, 30 year-old Mohamed Falah, from Fares-Maathoda Island in Gaafu Dhaal Atoll (the south-western half of Huvadhoo Atoll), has not been seen since he departed via dinghy for the small uninhabited island of Uhehuttaa to collect sand on May 9.

The MNDF Coast Guard can be contacted through the toll free number 191, 339-8898, 339-5981, or via fax 339-1665, with any information regarding the missing persons.

Take travel precautions

Ongoing extreme weather conditions have hampered search efforts to find the men lost at sea, explained Raheem.

“Even on the first day [of the search] we were unable to operate the MNDF helicopter due to really bad weather. The wind has been so heavy and the sea very rough, it has been very, very difficult to conduct operations,” he said.

“The MNDF has been advising people to take the necessary precautions. We urge people to be cautious and take care that all the necessary equipment is onboard before traveling. In particular, people should not travel without life-jackets, communications equipment, and fuel,” he continued.

“It is very important to have a working communications radio onboard. Most of the time incidents occur because [the means of] communications are not enough,” he emphasised.

“Some people depend on mobile phones, however service at sea is limited. The Transportation Ministry also mandates that vessels have radio equipment be onboard,” said Raheem.

Three weeks of communities being battered by extreme weather has prompted Maldivian government authorities to provide emergency services and relief funds, as well as issue multiple travel and weather advisories.


Coast Guard rescues five after fishing boat sinks due to bad weather

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Coast Guard have found and rescued the crew of a fishing boat that sank near Gaafaru Island in Male’ (Kaafu) Atoll.

The Coast Guard was notified at at approximately 5:00pm yesterday (May 5) that the Riveli fishing boat’s engine failed due to bad weather and the vessel was sinking, reported local media.

The Coast Guard located the 45 foot fishing boat this morning. It was “badly wrecked” and sunk on top of the reef, according to the MNDF.

MNDF Media Officer Abdulla Ali told local media today (May 6) that five people onboard the vessel were found floating with the aid of their life jackets inside the Gaafaru lagoon.

Four of the people are on route to Male’ and one is in need of medical attention, he added.