Koodoo Fisheries raises fish purchase prices

State owned Koodoo Fisheries has announced an increase in the price of fish, with the price of chilled fish – rising by MVR3,5 per kilo.

The price of un-chilled fish weighing between 0.5 and 1.5kilos has also increased by MVR2.5, the company told local media yesterday. Prices were also increased last month.

Koodoo – which buys fish from private fishermen across the country – said that it purchases fish below 1.5kg in order to increase fishermen’s revenue during low season, in spite of fetching a small price on the global market for them.

“The style of fishing we have adopted in Maldives is the most sustainable style of fishing to be adopted anywhere in the world. Therefore, decreasing the fishing of small sized fish and leaving the fish so they may grow larger in size will strengthen our sustainable fishing system,” read the Kooddoo press release.

Famed for its sustainable pole and line fishing methods, the Maldives announced earlier this year plans to teach long line methods to young fishermen in order to prevent encroachment on the country’s territorial waters.

Minister of Fisheries and Agricultire Dr Mohamed Shainee has also noted that such training would enable larger fish to be caught, and would reduce the industry’s vulnerability to external shocks in the global market.

The annual fish catch in the Maldives declined from approximately 185,000 tonnes of fish caught in 2006 to about 70,000 tonnes in 2011.


Week in review: March 9 – 14

This week’s headlines were largely dedicated to the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the senior leadership of the Elections Commission (EC) on charges of contempt of court and disobedience to order.

The decision – which also included a six month sentence for EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek – brought international condemnation as well as universal praise for the work of the commission.

The EU observer mission, currently in the country for the scheduled March 22 poll, quickly pointed out the considerable “time pressure” on a timely and credible election.

Domestically, both the Maldivian Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nasheed and the People’s Majlis declared the decision unconstitutional.

The Majlis Secretariat relayed this message in writing to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and senior government figures, while a Majlis committee stated that it still considered the dismissed members to be elections commissioners.

Alternatively, government supporters quickly backed the decision, with President Yameen saying that the government would abide by the ruling. Yameen also criticised the opposition’s discussion – conducted without a resolution – of boycotting the polls.

The President’s Office rounded on the court’s international naysayers while the chief justice said that the international statements included “falsified claims, and undermine the respect and authority of the Maldivian judiciary”.

Fears that the EC would not be able to conduct the election without its quorum were soon assuaged, however, as Ismail Habeeb – nominated to the commission after the resignation of the fifth EC member last October – was approved by the Majlis.

The PPM has called for the final two places on the commission to be filled before the elections, though Speaker Shahid has prorogued parliament until after the vote.

Other news…

Elsewhere this week, police seized 24kg of what was suspected to be heroin in their biggest haul to date, while repeated confiscation of unusual pets during drugs raids – as well as a python on the streets of Malé – prompted customs to tighten security in order to prevent the import of illegal animals.

The export of legal animals – in the form of Halal certified fish – is a policy the Islamic Ministry this week claimed was generating great enthusiasm.

Leaders at the Chamber of Commerce rounded on the EU’s trade policies with regards to Maldivian fish, suggesting a fisherman’s protest could be on its way.

One protest did arrive this week, at the international airport, as staff demonstrated against bad bonuses and worse food.

The Human Rights Commission was summoned to the Juvenile Court after repeated attempts to discuss a report the court claimed misled the public about the handling of the infamous 15 year old flogging trial.

Maldivian Development Alliance leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam was presented to the Criminal Court this after failing to attend previous hearings regarding his alleged attempts to smuggle alcohol into the country in 2012.

Already in custody, Maldivian Democratic Party MP Abdulla Jabir learned this week that he would remain during his appeal case for his recent conviction.

Finally, local NGO Advocating for the Rights of Children (ARC) launched an anti-bullying campaign in Malé as well as a new network to support the rights of disabled children.

Meanwhile, the Maafushi jail inmate – left in a coma with critical head injuries after being attacked by cellmates last month – was flown to Sri Lanka for further treatment.


Fishermen to protest EU fish import policy

Vice President of the Maldives National Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) Ismail Asif has today said that Maldivian fishermen are going to stage a protest against the EU.

The protest is to express concern regarding the decision made by the EU not to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives, following the country’s failure to comply with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday Asif claimed that the EU was attempting to take advantage of the country’s delicate economy and force certain policies on the Maldives.

”The MNCCI had tried to talk with the EU regarding the issue but the EU declined to go for negotiations,” he said, adding that the EU was trying to spread policies that Maldivians do not accept under the guise of human rights.

”But they never directly tell us that their issue is that the Maldives does not have religious freedom,” Asif said.

“They always say under this article of that convention or something like that.”

Asif questioned the capacity in which EU was here in the Maldives and said he will ask the government why the EU was brought here and why the government had given opportunity for such a dangerous group of people.

The EU yesterday revealed details of its first full EU Election Observation Mission to take place in the Maldives, with around 30 observers working to compile a comprehensive report on the entire Majlis elections process.

Asif said the EU delegation might go back and write another report and start taking actions against the country. He suggested that democracy – which he argued was more than observing elections and criticising – could only be strengthened after stabilising the economy of the country.

Businessmen in the Maldives are very concerned that an EU delegation had come to the Maldives after taking measures that would harm the economy of the country, Asif said.

”While they had taken these actions against us they did not consider that the Maldives is the country that does fishing the most environmentally friendly way,” he said.

The EU was doing anything they want to the Maldives because it is a small country, he argued, adding that all they do is provide funds for local NGOs to spread their propaganda.

”Maldivians can decide anything they want to decide when they want to decide it,” he said.

The Maldives exports 40 percent of its US$100 million fishing industry to the EU, its single largest export partner by value.

Until January 2014 those exports were duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.

The Maldives applied for an extension under the ‘GSP+’ program, a unilateral trade concession of the EU given to a limited number of countries on the basis of good implementation of human rights are labor conventions, officials said, however did not qualify due to the country’s reservations to ICCPR on religious freedom and CEDAW concerning women’s rights.

The total fish catch has been declining each year since 2006 reaching 83.1 thousand metric tonnes in 2011, leading to fears about the impact of climate change and overfishing by better equipped fishing fleets on the borders of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In November last year, the government said that the Maldives will look to alternative fish export markets, including the middle-eastern and the Malaysian market.

Asif was unavailable for comment when contacted by Minivan News today.

Under the Maldivian constitution all citizens are required to be Sunni Muslim and the practice of other religions is criminalised. Customs authorities forbid the import of religious items and scan the baggage of tourists arriving at the airport, while politicians frequently use allegations of ‘consorting with missionaries’ as a political attack.


Local fish exporters reduce price paid for catch

Local fish exporters have this week announced that they will be reducing the price paid to fisherman following a drop in global fish prices.

Horizon Fisheries, Koodoo Fisheries Maldives Ltd (KFML), Felivaru Fisheries and MIFCO have all reduced fish buying prices, telling local media that the price would increase along with global market prices.

Global fish prices are reported by local media to have dropped from US$2500 to US$1850, with Maldivian fishermen now receiving MVR18 per kg of fresh fish with ice, and MVR16 per kg without.

Ibrahim Manik of the Fisherman’s Union has suggested that leading government figures are amongst the country’s largest fish exporters.

“The senior officials of the PPM administration are fish exporters. Gasim’s Jumhooree Party and Yameen’s PPM’s [Progressive Party of Maldives] Zameer are fish exporters. As they make profits fishermen are facing a lot of damages.”

In the wake of the reduced prices, however, the government’s KFML announced it would be reducing ice and fuel charges in order to lessen the effects of the reduced fish prices.

The company reduced the selling price of diesel from MVR 17.25 to MVR 17, and the price of a ton of ice from MVR1050 to MVR 850, Sun Online revealed. The company also announced it would be reducing maintenance fees as well as attempting to penetrate new markets.

The newly appointed Minister of Fisheries Dr Mohamed Shainee told local television last week that he hoped the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives manifesto pledge to ensure all fishermen receive a basic income of MVR10,000 could be introduced next year.

“There is a lot of support for the policy from fishermen. This will incentivize the fishermen. They catch more than MVR 10,000 on good fishing days. But if the weather is bad or if the catch is low, there is a degree of despair. We are providing an incentive to overcome this despair to get ready for the next fishing season,” Shainee told Sun TV.

He revealed that the government would finance the scheme through the collection of MVR500 from each fisherman during the good months of fishing each year. It was also noted that the government planned to allocate MVR45 million from the MVR100 million allocated to subsidies fuel charges for fishing boats and hopes to designate a budget of MVR 90 million for the scheme.

While tourism is the Maldives’ largest economic sector, indirectly responsible for up to 70 percent of GDP and up to 90 percent of foreign exchange, fisheries is the country’s largest employer at over 40 percent.

The total fish catch has been declining each year since 2006 reaching 83.1 thousand metric tonnes in 2011, leading to fears about the impact of climate change and overfishing by better equipped fishing fleets on the borders of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The European Union earlier this month declined to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives, following the country’s failure to comply with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

The Maldives exports 40 percent of its US$100 million fishing industry to the EU, its single largest export partner by value.

Before January 2014 those exports are duty-free under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program, a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries.


Pole-and-line improvements needed to match demand with sustainability: FIS

Improvements must be made to traditional pole-and-line fishing fisheries practices to ensure the fast-growing demand for this kind of tuna can be met sustainably, founding member of the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) Dr Shiham Adam has told global seafood industry website Fish Information & Services (FIS).

Also the Director General of the Marine Research Centre in the Maldives, Adam spoke at the INFOFISH World Tuna and Trade Conference in Bangkok this week. He highlighted that pole-and-line tuna fishing is vital to many disadvantaged rural areas because it alleviates poverty within fishing communities.

In the Maldives, 30,000 people – a large percentage of the working population – are employed by the tuna industry. The average monthly income is about US$900 compared to the country’s minimum wage of around US$250, he said.

“We will channel our resources to support pole-and-line fisheries to get market access, improve post harvest and quality control, and eventually increase environmental performance of these fisheries so that they may qualify to be sustainably and environmentally certified,” Adam said.

While the livelihood of many pole-and-line fishers is currently in jeopardy, IPNLF has identified that end markets can help, so the Foundation is encouraging buyers to put into practice long-term contracts, facilitate capacity building, knowledge and business literacy transfer.

Read more


Dead fish washing up on beaches in northern atolls

Large numbers of dead fish have been washing ashore on resorts and inhabited islands in the upper north of the Maldives in Noonu and Haa Atolls, reports the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture.

The dead fish are overwhelmingly red-tooth trigger fish (odonus niger, locally known as vaalan rondu), but include several other species of reef fishes including Acanthurids (surgeon fish) and Serranids.

The Marine Research Centre (MRC) is currently investigating the incident.

MRC Director General Shiham Adam said a series of similar incidents were reported from June-December in 2007. Tests showed the increased presence of the bacteria Staphylococcus in the spleen of fish samples, but the investigation was inconclusive.

“We sent samples sent to the US and it seemed be related to a bacterial infection in the gills that causes them to suffocate,” Shiham explained.

“A lot of people say it is global warming and environmental change. [Fish kill incidents] are not something that normally happens, so we are worried about it,” he said.

Minute changes in the environment during critical periods of a species’ life-cycle could trigger such events, Shiham explained.

A red tide can be a sign of an algal bloom

In a statement, the Fisheries Ministry noted that the Maldives lacked the capacity to deal with such large scale incidents of fish-kill, “so we have to resort to collaboration with institutes and individual parties from overseas. As such we are awaiting results from fish samples which have been sent to laboratories in India and Denmark.”

Marine biologists have also reported ‘red-tides’ in the lagoons and beaches of some resorts, which sometimes attributed to algal blooms, such as trichodesmium.

“Phytoplankton (or algal) blooms are reported to be a very common cause of fish kills around the globe,” noted the MRC’s report into the 2007 fish kill incidents.

“Controlled populations of several groups of potentially harmful algae usually belonging to the dinoflagellates) exist) in the marine environment. When conditions become favourable (nutrient enrichment of the waters, changes in physical conditions of the surrounding waters, etc) the microalgae (usually also associated with the secretion of toxins) populations burst causing mass mortalities of fish,” the report noted.

“These toxins are not necessarily always associated with fish kills, but rather the planktivores that feed on these dinoflagellates accumulate the toxins, which in turn affects higher predators (including human beings) that feeds on the toxin-accumulated fish.”

The statement from the Fisheries Ministry advised the public to not to eat the dead fish or go into murky water, as it may be potentially harmful to health.

The MRC requested that sightings of fish kill incidents and/or red tides be forwarded to MRC staff Ahmed Najeeb ([email protected]) or Faheeda Islam ([email protected]).


Maldives aims beyond usual Sri Lankan investments

The Maldives showed interest in increasing investments from Sri Lanka at the fourth annual meeting of the Sri Lanka, according to the Maldives Bilateral Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Among the investments discussed were construction, transport and energy. Officials also discussed expanding a credit line beyond fruits and vegetables for Sri Lankan exporters, reports Lanka Business Online.

An expanded credit line could allegedly broaden business opportunities in the Maldives and alleviate the Maldives’ current difficulties with a foreign currency shortage, council president Hussain S. Hashim allegedly said.

The council, which was formed in 2007, addresses business relationships between the two countries. The Maldives imports Sri Lankan textiles, clothing, jewellery, produce and tea, and exports a variety of fish products as well as cement clinker to its neighbour.


Confusion over Sri Lankan fishing vessel traffic a political red herring: Zuhair

The government has confirmed that no specific agreement has been signed with Sri Lanka allowing Sri Lankan fishing vessels to cross Maldivian waters enroute to the Arabian Sea.

Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said yesterday that the only development of note with Sri Lanka’s External Minister was the release of seven fishing vessels detained by the Maldives on suspicion of illegal fishing.

The confusion was sparked after an article published on August 5 in Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror referred to a statement from the country’s External Minister Neomal Perera, claiming such an agreement existed so long as vessels gave 48 hours notice to the Ministry of External Affairs in Sri Lanka or the High Commission in the Maldives.

“[Local newspaper] Haveeru went to town when Fisheries Minister [Dr Ibrahim Didi] said no such agreement had been signed with Sri Lanka,” President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today.

“The opposition seized it as an opportunity to whip up confusion and say the government had compromised the sovereignty of the Maldives – their latest favourite red herring.”

Zuhair said that on being informed by Haveeru that Sri Lankan’s External Minister had made such a statement, he had told the journalist that Sri Lankan fishing vessels – or the vessels of any nation – were already entitled to cross Maldivian waters as the Maldives was party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“The Maldives became party to it in 1982, became a signatory in 1994, and ratified it in 2000. It provides for ‘innocent passage’, and in the case of a fishing vessel requires that such gear be stowed,” Zuhair explained.

Article 17 of the convention states that “ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea”, while Article 24 further states that a state “shall not hamper the innocent passage of foreign ships through the territorial sea except in accordance with this Convention.”

‘Passage’ precludes activities such as research surveys, military exercises, “serious” pollution and fishing.

“This may have been taken from an erroneous observation from the Minister during his visit,” Zuhair said, “but the Daily Mirror story is broadly correct, and I told Haveeru that this was permission [Sri Lanka] continued to have. The embassy needs a system where authorities can ID the vessel [to combat illegal fishing].”

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture issued a statement yesterday strongly denying that the reported maritime agreement with Sri Lanka had been signed by the government.

While discussions about allowing passage for Sri Lankan fishing vessels through Maldivian waters had taken place on numerous occasions, “the Maldives has always said that foreign vessels could cross Maldivian seas only in accordance with Maldivian law.”

The press release explains that “innocent passage” was routinely granted for foreign vessels as the Maldives is signatory to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea but foreign fishing vessels without a license to operate in Maldivian waters are required to seek the ministry’s authorisation before entering the Maldives’ economic zone.

Moreover, the Ministry of Defence and National Security must be consulted before authorising passage for such vessels and the Fisheries Act “empowers the ministry to require monitoring systems in the vessels to locate its position through satellite.”

Parliament spent several hours yesterday debating the non-existent agreement with Sri Lanka, which led to a rare split in MDP ranks after MP Mohamed Musthafa vowed to submit a binding resolution demanding the government recall the ‘decision’ as “[Sri Lanka’s] intention is to steal our fish. I cannot just stand aside and watch while they take away our fish, which is the only source of natural resource we have in abundance. It is a right that has to be preserved for future generations.”

The issue quickly fell victim to the Maldives’ highly partisan politics, after head of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)’s fishing branch, Ali Solih, denounced the supposed agreement as “an insult to Maldivian fisherman” and “a dangerous deal,” as the Maldives did not have the capacity to monitor illegal fishing.

DRP MP Ali Saleem then proposed a motion without notice yesterday demanding that parliament “look into what is hidden behind this. Did you know that even if Sri Lankan fishing vessels traveling to the Arabian sea are carrying sharks or fish catch, there is no way to know because of this agreement signed yesterday?”

MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa hit out at the opposition for labelling Sri Lanka as “thieves” in the pursuit of local political gain, and claimed the allegation was “very irresponsible”.

MDP MP ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed suggested during yesterday’s impromptu debate that “it would be better for us to find out accurate information on the matter”.

The Sri Lankan High Commission had not responded to Minivan News at time of press.