Eight of the 12 fishermen aboard the Indian vessel ‘Holy Spirit,’ who were detained by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Coast Guard on 23 October for alleged poaching within the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), have been repatriated to India.

The Indian High Commission in the Maldives facilitated the immediate return of the eight Indian nationals. Discussions are underway with all relevant authorities to best address the circumstances surrounding the incident, the High Commission said.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has twice reached out to India’s Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, seeking the Indian government’s “urgent intervention” to secure the release of the twelve Indian fishermen and their fishing vessel.

In a letter, Stalin asserted that the detained fishermen were engaged in “legitimate fishing activities in the high seas,” suggesting that the vessel was seized outside Maldivian waters. He highlighted the financial implications of the incident, noting that fishing is the sole source of income for these individuals and their families. The fine of MVR 4.2 million imposed by the Maldivian government, he argued, is beyond their means and poses a risk of permanent impoverishment.