President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has today submitted a new fisheries bill for consideration to the People’s Majlis. Fisheries is one of the most important policy areas of this administration in light of its economic value and close identification with the Maldives’ culture and traditions. This administration intends to formulate a fisheries policy that will yield the most amount of benefit to Maldivian citizens.

The bill submitted to the People’s Majlis today was crafted with the involvement and input of Maldivians who work in the field and know the industry well to facilitate the further progress of this important sector, and covers several measures and regulations to the benefit of Maldivian fisherman.

Up until now several administrations have had to deal with the issue of foreign vessels fishing in the Maldives’ waters and Exclusive Economic Zone. Henceforward if foreign vessels are not licenced by our government to do so they will not be able to fish in the Maldives EEZ or territorial waters. Further it will be more difficult in the future for foreign vessels to engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Vessels who engage in such illicit activity will be subject to harsh punitive measures and fines.

Fishing as an activity and as an industry has always progressed in harmony with the Maldives’ environment. In this regard pole and line fishing and hand-line fishing, which are the dominant modes of fisheries in the Maldives, are regarded worldwide as two of the most sustainable fisheries methods. Under the new proposed legislation, if passed, fishing methods will be restricted to these two modes and more harmful methods such as trawlnet fishing will be completely banned in the country.

Under the new amendments only Maldivian nationals will be allowed to fish using the line fishing method; in adsition, the reforms will end the exclusive privileges granted to four specific businesses to buy and sell skipjack tuna, allowing other entities and investors to become involved in the business.

This will also prove a boon to our fisheries exports on the international market as eco-friendly consumers will have confidence that fish products originating from the Maldives are produced through sustainable fishing practices.

The bill will also provide for price-ceilings and floor prices to strike a right balance between the need for fisherman to make profits and to protect consumers from inordinately expensive prices for a basic item.

In addition to the above policies this administration will set up fish processing facilities to add value to fisheries products and will also set up fish plants, and take steps that remove impediments to the fisheries market.