Fishermen in Addu City, in a display of growing frustration, have started protesting against the state-owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd. (MIFCO) for its failure to disburse payments owed to them. The protest, which began on Friday evening, has continued through Saturday.

The protest is taking place near the MIFCO Addu Fisheries Complex on Hulhumeedhoo Island, where approximately 80 fishermen have gathered since Friday. Their demands are twofold: an immediate settlement of MIFCO’s outstanding payments and a commitment from the government to ensure future payments within 15 days of purchasing their catch. The protesters have also called for a senior official from the relevant government agency to negotiate directly with them.

The protesters have also threatened to oust the MIFCO Addu Fisheries Complex staff should their demands remain unmet, according to the Maldives Police Service (MPS).

“We are here to assert our rights. Our intent is not to clash with the police or challenge the government. It’s been three months since we received our last payment. Our families are enduring severe hardships. We have reached a point of bankruptcy and are even unable to settle our electricity bills,” described one fisherman in a recorded video, highlighting the severe challenges facing many in the community.

This is not the first time fishermen have voiced their discontent. Earlier this year, similar protests brought operations at the Kooddoo Fisheries Complex in Gaafu Alifu Atoll to a standstill.

Earlier this month, large demonstrations took place over the same issue in Hulhumalé, Malé, and Madaveli Island, Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. Following these protests, the government released MVR 46 million of the MVR 80 million owed to fishermen ahead of the Eid al-Adha holidays, yet the issue of unpaid dues remains unresolved.

The current administration, led by President Mohamed Muizzu, had pledged to pay fishermen within 12 hours of purchasing their catch, a promise that has yet to be fulfilled. Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shiyam has indicated that the government’s ability to honour this promise is contingent upon resolving existing financial issues.

As the protest continues, the MPS has urged demonstrators to abide by the law and maintain peace, while also expressing its intention to support lawful protests. The police also said they are working on solutions to reopen the MIFCO Addu Fisheries Complex, which has been closed due to ongoing protests.