Government lacks vision or policy for fisheries, says MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned President Abdulla Yameen’s fishery policies, claiming fish catch has been decreasing since the party was ousted from power in February 2012.

The government “lacks any policy or vision” regarding the fisheries sector, the MDP said in a statement on Monday.

Fishing is the Maldives’ third largest industry after tourism and construction.

“The MDP expresses concern over declining profits for fishermen and condemns the government’s neglect of the fisheries sector,” the MDP said.

In its statement, the MDP compared statistics from when the party was in power to past two years and claimed there has been a significant decline in fish exports.

Mariculture exports increased from 340 tons to 919 tons in 2012, but declined to 773 tons in 2013, the MDP said.

Packaged and canned fish exports stood at 6000 tons per year between 2008 and 2011 but declined to 2204 tons in 2012 and 1907 tons in 2013.

Yameen’s decision to reinstate import duty on diesel has caused “great loss” to fishermen, the MDP said. The duty was discontinued during MDP’s term.

The MDP has also accused the government of opening up the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for “trawling in the name of long-line fishing.”

The party also expressed concern over declining fish prices since Yameen took power and condemned the government’s failure to fulfill a pledge to hand out MVR 10,000 (US$ 648) to every fisherman regardless of fish catch.

On November 28, local fish exporters announced they would be reducing fish prices paid to local fishermen following a drop in global fish prices.

The government reneged on the pledge to provide cash handouts and offered an insurance scheme instead. Fishermen must pay a premium to the government during months where fishing is good in order to be eligible for an allowance during lean months.

The party claimed the government has discontinued the monthly fisheries report, which details of the daily catch from the Islands, to hide the truth

Neither the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Mohamed Shainee nor media officials were responding to calls at the time of press.

However, a Fisheries Ministry media official told local news agency Vnews that the report is available online.

Despite this claim the monthly report was unavailable on the ministry and only website had annual ‘Basic Fisheries Statistics‘, the last of which was published for the year 2012.

According to the Maldives Monetary Authority, fish purchases declined by 18 percent between January and May as compared to the same period in 2013.

However, the volume and earnings from fish exports increased in April 2014 when compared to April 2013, mainly due to increase in export of fresh and chilled yellowfin tuna.

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 in November 2013 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.