President Mohamed Muizzu announced on Sunday that the government has successfully cleared all outstanding payments to fishermen, marking a potential turning point in the ongoing fisheries payment crisis. This issue had previously sparked widespread protests and led to the introduction of early-day motions in parliament.

The announcement on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, effectively resolves the issue that had seen fishermen shutting down the Kooddoo Fisheries Complex, Kooddoo Island, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, in protest. According to the fishermen, the government discontinued payments in December 2023. The government says there was a backlog of MVR 250 million in due payments when its assumed office on 17 November 2023.

“Proceeds from the sale of fish by fishermen up until Friday have been duly paid, and the existing backlog has been entirely cleared,” President Muizzu announced Sunday evening.

The fishing community has long voiced concerns about timely payments, particularly after selling their catch to the state-owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd. (MIFCO). During his presidential campaign, President Muizzu pledged to pay fishermen within 48 hours of fish purchase, a promise that has yet to be fulfilled. However, the president has reiterated his commitment to this pledge, stating that the 48-hour payment window will be implemented once the outstanding dues have been cleared.

The Muizzu administration has also committed to addressing broader issues in the fisheries sector. MIFCO, previously a State Trading Organization (STO) subsidiary, has been restructured as a separate state-owned enterprise under the current administration.

The government attributes the payment delay to the previous administration, led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), raising the buying rate of skipjack tuna from MVR17 to MVR 25 in September 2023. Citing sustainability concerns, the Muizzu government has since lowered the rate to MVR 20, pledging that the price will not be reduced further.