The Bodu Kanneli Masveringe Union (BKMU), representing yellowfin tuna fishermen in the Maldives, has voiced apprehension over the Mohamed Muizzu administration’s proposal to reintroduce longline fishing within the country’s waters. This decision, announced by Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shiyam, seeks to maximise the utilisation of the allocated yellowfin tuna quotas established by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

The IOTC, guided by scientific research, has set these quotas to manage fishing activities across the Indian Ocean, granting the Maldives a substantial quota of 47,517 metric tonnes for 2022, placing it second only to the European Union (EU).

In a statement, the BKMU raised serious concerns that the reintroduction of longline fishing could devastate pole-and-line fishery, potentially leading to severe financial hardship for local fishermen and their investors. They warned that such a move could result in significant financial strain on pole-and-line fishermen and their families.

The union further stated that the reintroduction of longline fishing would primarily favour larger corporations at the expense of smaller investors in the fisheries sector. They emphasised that this change could result in increased catches by foreign and local longline fishing vessels in Maldivian waters, potentially leading to reduced demand and prices for yellowfin tuna caught by pole-and-line fishers.

“As a result, the disparity between income and expenditure will lead to financial instability, potentially resulting in bankruptcy for investors, vessel owners, and families reliant on the yellowfin tuna fishery,” the statement reads.

Additionally, the fisheries union expressed concerns about high fuel prices and delays in payment for fish sold to fish processing factories. “So, our foremost demand is for the government to honour its commitment to establish the lowest buying rate of a kilogramme of yellowfin tuna (MVR 80 to MVR 100) and to refrain from reintroducing long line fishing until MIFCO [Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company] begins purchasing yellowfin tuna,” BKMU stated.

In response to the proposed reintroduction of longline fishing, BKMU is currently in discussions with fishing vessels to organise a protest in the Malé area to voice their opposition to the government’s plan.